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- Time and effort needed to rebuild the Perl installation in-house.
- Shorten development cycle, and increase efficiency.
- Guarantee that Perl licensing requirements are taken care of.
- Deploy an industry-standard Perl language distribution.
- Shortcut to cost-effective redistribution rights for the fully tested Perl distribution.
- Customers see two to three times the performance speed.
- Mitigate common open source concerns.
Maturing without growing pains
Numara Software improves the overall quality of their customers' technical support services. From standalone help desk implementations to complete customer support environments, Numara Software solutions make IT and support professionals more productive and reduce the costs associated with running a support desk. The company was founded in 1991 and has a combined install base of more than 50,000 customers worldwide.
Numara® FootPrints® is a service desk management solution that makes running a technical support desk a less complex, time consuming and costly venture. It logs calls and manages support cases and workflows. Numara Footprints was written a decade ago in Perl, a common open source language, and has evolved into a full-featured offering with hundreds of thousands of lines of code. Mark Krieger is the VP of Product Development at Numara Software and he's shepherded the development of Numara FootPrints from the very start.
The engineers at Numara Software are accomplished programmers with plenty of open source experience, so they have always been comfortable working with the Perl code available from the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) website. But, as Numara FootPrints matured into an enterprise solution supporting many more users, Krieger wanted to get away from having the Numara Software engineers spending time and energy rebuilding the Perl installation in-house. The answer was to deploy an industry-standard Perl language distribution.
"Our story at Numara Software is that Numara FootPrints makes it significantly faster, easier and more cost effective to run a support environment than it would be to build your own solution in-house. I thought we should practice what we preach and let ActiveState do the same for us."
More than three years ago, Numara Software turned its Perl administration over to ActiveState by implementing ActivePerl. ActivePerl is a ready-to-install industry-standard Perl distribution that works across a variety of platforms. It's used by developers worldwide for easy Perl installation, quality-assured code and comprehensive technical support. Results include a shortened development cycle, increased efficiency and easy, out-of-the-box enterprise licensing.
Krieger says assuring customers that Numara FootPrints uses a standard Perl build has become an enticing selling feature. Potential buyers want to know which Perl distribution Numara FootPrints uses because they need confirmation that they're getting the best-quality version of the open source language.
"When we sell into big organizations, having a standard Perl distribution can be a critical factor. In some cases, it can even make the sale," says Krieger. The Numara Software solutions are actively used by more than 2,500 government agencies throughout the world including enterprise customers at many large US government sites.
A secondary business benefit is the guarantee that Perl licensing requirements are taken care of. The ActivePerl OEM Licensing package is a shortcut to cost-effective redistribution rights for the fully tested Perl distribution. Out-of-the-box licensing means less homework and administration for Numara Software. It also reassures customers that the open source in Numara FootPrints is properly licensed and meets necessary legal requirements.
Power boosting with PerlEx
A key selling point for Krieger was that ActivePerl comes packaged with ActiveState PerlEx, which easily publishes Perl code as web-accessible components. PerlEx functions similarly to mod_perl. It pre-compiles scripts, adds extended functionality, such as embedding capabilities and persistent data connections, as well as SOAP and XML-RPC integration.
Using PerlEx, Numara FootPrints customers see two to three times the performance speed, said Krieger. "PerlEx is so useful. We get a much faster execution for our customers with it."
For example, Krieger says, "If 200 people are using the application simultaneously, they'll get much higher performance output running ActivePerl because of the PerlEx component."
More code = More maintenance
As Numara FootPrints evolved and matured into a robust, enterprise offering, Krieger realized that the time and effort required to maintain Perl was consistently climbing. On average, code maintenance was taking up half of one programmer's time. "We came to the realization that there was no point dedicating our energy and resources towards rebuilding Perl when ActiveState could do it more cost effectively," said Krieger.
The open source option
Today, the question of open source viability almost never arises for Numara Software. "Five years ago I might have heard comments about open source being a questionable option for enterprise software development, but today open source is hot."
Krieger isn't the only one who believes open source has gone mainstream. In a recent study, Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2012, 90% of software development organizations will be using open source code in some capacity in enterprise software products.
Like many of his peers, Krieger agrees that the benefits of open source outweigh potential problems. Its evolving, extensible and flexible nature means the quality of the Numara FootPrints Perl implementation will continue to get better over time. Plus, by using ActivePerl, Numara Software mitigates common open source concerns such as lack of technical support, questionable code quality and the inability of in-house engineers to keep up with fixes, issues and updates.
"To be honest we didn't even consider going with anyone other than ActiveState. We know they're the leaders in the industry and that ActivePerl is the industry-standard for the language."
Numara Software has been using ActivePerl for more than three years without problems. Krieger says he can count on one hand the number of times his developers have required any help from ActiveState.
"The code is solid and the quality is extremely high. We're a very happy ActiveState customer."