Technology Pathways, LLC

Executive Summary

The Challenge

  • Competitors offer popular functionality expensive to replicate.
  • Customer base growing beyond ability to service effectively.

The Solution

  • Introduce "integration language" which lets customers code their own solutions.

The Result

  • Very high acceptance by customers.
  • Burgeoning third-party market of add-on products and services.
  • Ability to compete for business with new requirements.
  • No problems with licensing, support, technology.

The Challenge

Giving customers what they want—and then some

Successful businesses understand customer needs and meet them. Technology Pathways, LLC, didn't stop there. Version 4.0 of its ProDiscover® computer security and forensics tools not only met customer's current needs; it enabled capabilities beyond what they or their customers had envisioned.

Faced with competing products offering extensive automation features, Technology Pathways recognized that version 4.0 of ProDiscover would need similar tools.

Would users see any benefit in the new automation facilities? Would the expense and time consuming development of these new facilities distract Technology Pathways from higher priorities, or allow competitors to surpass its functionality? Would licensing or documentation hassles undercut the value delivered to end-users?

By choosing ActivePerl from ActiveState Software, Inc., Technology Pathways eliminated most of these risks, and kicked off an "explosion" in sophisticated automations written by ProDiscover customers and third-party vendors.

Highly-regarded for forensic software

Technology Pathways is a small but respected software provider focused on its proprietary line of computer forensic software for corporate, government, and legal markets. Customers rely on its patent-pending technology to scan computers for evidence of intrusions, misuse, and other actionable items of legal and operational importance. While the company originally concentrated on Windows products, it recently extended its lines to handle Solaris and Linux filesystems.

With two well-defined exceptions, Technology Pathways doesn't employ libraries from third parties and writes all its own code. This gives them an exceptional ability to support highly technical customer needs, and certify for legal purposes the precise function of all the operations of all its products.

However, this intensively "hands-on" approach to product development resulted in a couple of business challenges. First, it was difficult to keep up with larger competitors who could develop product functionality faster. Second, although Technology Pathways' technical superiority made even difficult service needs feasible, the company simply didn't have enough qualified staff to keep up with its expanding customer base. Customer needs, recalls CTO Chris Brown, drove the company's "desire for automation".

The Solution

Automation capabilities

Technology Pathways decided to extend their flagship ProDiscover product with an "integration language" to allow customers, third-party providers and Technology Pathways itself to create automation features that go beyond the base capabilities of the product. With this language in place, Technology Pathways focuses on core technological forensic breakthroughs, while customers script more conventional searching and reporting.

To implement such a language on its own would have added "at least another year" to roll-out, estimates Brown. Technology Pathways needed an implementation whose source it could view, whose function was reliable, and whose language its customers would accept.

After considering a number of alternatives including various flavors of JavaScript and VisualBasic, Brown and his team chose ActiveState's ActivePerl. Even though Brown himself is not a Perl expert, choosing ActiveState has paid off on a number of fronts: "I don't regret the decision one bit."

The Result

What does ActivePerl bring to ProDiscover?

  • Perl itself is popular with customers. Informal surveys turned up nearly-universal enthusiasm for the language. Its long history and "widely accepted" usage suited Technology Pathways. Moreover, Perl has a long history of portability between Windows and varieties of Unix including Linux.
  • Perl's open-source basis is "a plus. We want to be able to support our customers. It's beneficial to be able to look at the source code."
  • ActiveState has been a satisfying vendor. Over the three years of use to this point, there have been "zero problems" and "zero support calls". It's "definitely been a good relationship."
  • Legal precision and functional reliability are crucial for Technology Pathways, for which "legal is our business". ActivePerl's simple license and "hardened, tested" version of Perl gives Brown what he needs "without doing the porting work".

ActivePerl for ProDiscover has been a success, with high customer acceptance and a flourishing third-party market for specialized scripting. Customers report mammoth "corporate-wide security benefits" with the automation that Version 4.0 makes possible.

Perhaps equally important are the benefits that Brown and (Technology Pathways President and CEO) Steve Richardson do not know. Technology Pathways has abundant applications in high-security sites. Some of the product's best customers do things that are unknown to the vendor—but it's certain they wouldn't do them as easily or at all without the standardized automation that ActivePerl enables for ProDiscover.