MVON Express was launched quietly in January of this year and shown at International Spectrum in April. Following a recent press release by ONgroup announcing general availability, I decided to follow up and find out more about their FREE PRODUCT - MVON Express. Here are some highlights from the time I spent with Charles Stauffer, President and CEO of ONgroup, Jack Roth, VP of Operations at ONgroup, and Dawn Wolthuis about the product and its uses and pricing strategy.
How did the MVON name come about?
Charles Stauffer, our CEO and President, came up with this name in the 1990’s while developing a version of MV that would run on Oracle and other relational databases. So, we have MV on SQL Server (MVON SQL Server) and MVON Oracle. The overall product was more often referred to as ONware in the past. While we still use that name for the product line, we have brought the “MVON” name front and center now.
What is MVON, exactly, and how does it differ from D3, UniVerse etc?
Remember when MultiValue, aka PICK, was an operating system? Youngsters might not recall this, but then along came products like Prime Information, UniData, UniVerse, D3 and others. They decoupled the operating system from MultiValue, turning MultiValue from an operating system to a "database-environment."
MVON goes the next step, decoupling the MultiValue environment from the DBMS. The DBMS is separate, so the MV environment can use the latest and best database technology.
With MVON, you get the best of both worlds. MVON has the features that MV developers expect, including MV BASIC, the MV query language, PROC, and TCL that emulate other common MV environments, such as UniVerse, UniData and D3. So, your existing applications can continue to operate.
But, now, with MVON, you have the capabilities of DBMS, such as Oracle or SQL Server, as well. Further, you can use the vast array of BI and other tools compatible with the relational DBMS.
In the recent press release it said: “Production-capable MultiValue with SQL Server Express”. What does that really mean?
This is not your grandma’s PE edition (as a grandma, I can say that). Use it for real work. It can be deployed for multiple users within your organization, it can run in the cloud, or you can use it as a personal database. Your choice.
Can you take code from other MV platforms and transfer it straight over?
Yes. MVON is feature rich in supporting the varying MV source types and runtime features of BASIC. There is comprehensive support for the various flavors of PROC, PERFORM, TCL, the query language and dictionaries. Each new site finds some deltas between their source environment and MVON, and with 66 different applications ported to MVON over the years, we have tools and techniques to resolve the differences. We pride ourselves in “going the extra mile.”
As an example, one VAR wanted their migrated application to appear the same as their original Power95 application to their end users. To that end Peter Carroll wrote the MVON utilities to emulate Power95, including the spooler.
Could Universe, D3 and Unidata Developers immediately use MVON? Or is there a learning curve?
We do the deployment of our free product by way of “tours” to get people into the swing of it. For those who have experience with both SQL Server and MultiValue, there is very little to learn – it works! For those with no SQL experience, while they can work from TCL and ignore the fact that the data is in SQL Server, they will eventually want to learn SQL Server tips and tricks too. Curious developers will wonder immediately why a SELECT from TCL, for example, is so fast with MVON. Those hash tables we have come to love (in my case, perhaps more of a love/hate relationship) are just gone. In its place is current DBMS technology. If there is something you want to learn about SQL Server, there are likely YouTube videos, documentation, tutorials, and blog entries that provide you whatever you need. MVON opens up a whole world of resources for MultiValue developers.
Do you have any current users?
Yes! We have many deployed MVON SQL Server and MVON Oracle sites. From January’s MVON Express Tour 1, with the first group of 10 participants, we already have applications ready for deployment! There are more in the pipeline. The good news is that those who completed the tour now have MVON Express at their beck and call at the point when they have a need for free MultiValue.
Is the product really stable?
Yes. MVON is a stable product in production for both large and smaller businesses around the world. MVON Express rides on its coattails. We asked the Tour 1 participants for some words to describe the product, and we learned that MVON Express is seen as: Fast, clean, simple, nimble, scrappy, budget-friendly, cool, amazing, and useful. I think they would agree that we can add “stable” to that list.
Why decide to create a FREE product?
Oracle and SQL Server have free Express versions. Because MVON works with Oracle and SQL Server, we thought it would be great to have an Express version for MultiValue organizations and developers too. Hey, I would like FREE production-usable MultiValue myself. Although it might sound altruistic to say that we wanted to give back to the MV community, I will admit that this is really marketing. This was our internal answer to the question “How can we get people and organizations to know that MVON might be a good match for them?” Our CTO, Perry Stauffer, said only one small change was required to MVON for an Express edition that runs only with SQL Server Express. That made the decision easy. Although it handles the complex task of running MultiValue with data stored in relational databases, the product is solid enough to give people instructions and turn them loose with it to see for themselves.
Where’s the hidden pricing?
I’m glad you asked. There is no hidden pricing, but there are transparent constraints. MVON Express works with SQL Server Express. SQL Server Express has constraints, such as a maximum of 10GB of data per database (per MV account). SQL Server Express constraints are openly listed on the Microsoft site. No surprises. While we all know a lot of text can go into a 10GB database, this would not handle a typical ERP solution for a mid to large-sized company. It might be perfect for a satellite project for that same site, however. MVON Express can live side-by-side other MultiValue implementations, offloading whatever might otherwise be expensive or supplementing an existing application for Data Mart reporting. Replicate data to MVON Express and your users can do SSRS reports, for example. If it makes sense for any given project for your organization to pay for SQL Server Standard or SQL Server Enterprise, it will likely make sense to pay for the corresponding MVON edition. If a particular project is small or is best done with more frugality, then choose the Express edition.
For example, I recently talked to a VAR that is getting started by deploying the free version for a small end-customer. They intend to deploy the standard edition or enterprise editions for their larger customers.
How can ONgroup provide it FREE and stay in business?
We intend to be very conscientious about not doing a “bait and switch” with MVON Express. We want to be clear about what it is so that it can be put to appropriate use. We hope and expect that some Express users will want to use the upscale versions of SQL Server or Oracle in their organizations or, in the case of a VAR, with their large customers.
As we expand our product line (there is more fun coming!), we anticipate that more sites will be interested in taking a look. We also look forward to seeing what creative uses sites and individuals might have for FREE MultiValue. We think this is an exciting new product on the MultiValue landscape.
How can someone get their hands on MVON?
Head to http://www.ongroup.com/apply to apply for our Tour. You can come in at any point during a Tour. We have one starting in May and extending until August. After you complete the Tour, you can keep your $0 annual license for FREE MultiValue going each year indefinitely. You have several months to complete the Tour, and many people working only a bit here and there are able complete it within days or even hours, continuing their work with the tool thereafter.
Picture credit: Flickr