IRIS sets out new SQL Server-based product strategy

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IRIS Software has started shipping tax and practice management products based on Microsoft's SQL Server database management system as the developer embarks on a long-term overhaul of its entire product range.

Deliveries of the SQL Server edition IRIS's tax, accounts production and practice management suite began at the beginning of October. Existing users will be upgraded to the new database system from April 2006.

SQL Server will become the standard database platform for all IRIS users, including payroll/HR and the IRIS Enterprise accounting system the company acquired last year.

Jeremy Watson, who managed the SQL Server migration project at IRIS, said replacing the previous database engine, Btrieve from Pervasive, will change how some of the IRIS applications behave. "Some areas will be fas...

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18th Nov 2005 16:47

Here go the technogeeks and big practice dreamers again!
The real issue for older Iris users is Iris dropping support for the older accounts chart next year along with all this mumbo jumbo. This means that I will have to manually convert every one of my clients, retrain the staff to the new codes and waste my time thinking how to get the best out of 'the enhanced chart'.
Iris say that 'I will now be able to round up to £1k for my larger clients'. What fun.
Don't do Plc's!
I have been a Sole Practitioner user of Iris since the eighties on twin disk Apricots and you could ring up someone and tell them how much better Hartley did it ten years earlier and expect a mod or two. It HAS been very good and rarely falls over. The price now has become exhorbitant.
No you can't equate volume selling football games with specialist top line accountant's ware.
But it is stonkingly expensive and it is now time to draw the line.
Iris, you are leaving us behind.
I am going to seek new software, since I will have to change my code structure anyway.
I hope it will be excel based so that I can freely wing bits of info hither and yon as I do with extracts from Sage and other hopelessly unanalysable software. Are there any users of Vision Accounts out there? How well does that work. It seems basic enough for my needs!

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09th Nov 2005 08:49

Think business, not technology
I worry about the emphasis of particular technologies in this thread, and the Iris announcement itself. I agree with JC, Dennis and Alastair. Technology should only be an issue if it is getting in the way of the business purpose of the intended solution. For example, my company sells a Software as a Service based solution. It happens to be based on MS SQL Server and .NET technology, but the important thing is that it is properly web native with XML based services, which means it gives better performance and easier integration to other web services and systems than other alternatives on the market. It's these last issues that are important, not the technology. I, and the customers, don't care if the database is SQL Server, MySQL, or Oracle as long as it does the job.

In another example, we partner with a Software as a Service e-Commerce solution that drives web shops for B2B, for example for major office supplies companies. The clients never ask about the technology. It happens to run on IBM's iSeries, Websphere, with back end code written in RPG (anyone remember that?). The clients are only interested in the functionality, performance, and the availability of the reporting and business intelligence that it delivers.

I'm also concerned about Laura's ideal world. I've worked for software houses who try to deliver their solution on multiple database platforms. You end up spending a significant amount of the development budget porting and testing the different environments, and in any case, you need to design the application to use the lowest common denominator of features available, rather than optimising it for the best a particular database can offer. I'd much prefer that all of the precious development budget was focused on extra functions and features to enhance the product.
David Terrar
mail: [email protected]

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By Anonymous
31st Oct 2005 11:02

Difference between Migration & Re-design ...
The fact that a bTrieve database has been migrated to (replaced by) SQL Server does not by defininition mean it becomes integrated; if it wasn't integrated in the first place then the position has not changed

Simply 'chucking' all data into one Db is not by any stretch of imagination a recipe for an integrated solution

The real question one should be asking is whether there has been a fundamental design change to the underlying software to transform it into an integrated solution

Essentially an integrated solution needs to be built from the ground up - has this been done??

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31st Oct 2005 13:36

spot the message
There is a lot of chaff from IRIS in this. A very mixed message - but will it work. Cannot imagine that many users will move away from IRIS as a result, although they might have problems with the users that require more licences than MSDE offers - SQL server licences are not cheap in any sense.

As I recall, IRIS works well in a small environent, but does not scale well; something that SQL migration should address. I worked in a top 20 practice, IRIS was evaluated along with Digita and some others. Fact is that this is a market that IRIS wants to crack, but cannot until it produces a scalable product. As it happens IRIS was rejected for several reasons, its database engine being one, but DIGITA was chosen because it was judged to be a superior product - despite the strength that IRIS has in customer support and product development, and despite the fact that this was an acquisitive practice taking over offices with large installed IRIS user base.

The hosted solution is of more interest to the smaller practice. IRIS is king in this market, but is likely to face a significant challenge through a hosted solution route. Dennis Howlett has this entirely correct, and it will be an interesting time for the likes of IRIS and SAGE. I imagine that an SQL solution makes a hosted solution easier to implement, but this is something that the average user of such a service will have no interest in.

The integrated client database thing is an interesting diversion. Fact is that you can achieve a similar level of integration with a variety of diverse providers, but IRIS maintain an effective message about integration. Personally I think they do this by exploiting a lack of technical knowledge in their target market. Certainly most of their users appear to value the level of integration they offer, but it is not difficult to pick holes in it, and there are rumblings in some of the comments posted here. Cynically, the integration message hides shortcomings in some of the components in the suite!

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28th Oct 2005 17:01

Real or imagined?
Wouldn't the world be a simpler place if Laura's ideas were capable of being readily done without an army of DB administrators? Sadly it's not the case.

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By Anonymous
28th Oct 2005 19:04

Who cares whats under the bonnet ..........
providing it does the job.

The fact that a supplier makes a lot of noise about some technology or other should be irrelevant. Nevertheless, one suspects that the actual SQL Server Db is only part of the rational; other infulencing factors are 'the me too' element and capitalising on SQLReporting, Analysis, BI etc. - as indicated by the SQLViews comment in the article

It is perfectly possible for Lauras ideas to become reality today.

Also in the longer term, businesses need to be moving towards the concept of a fully resourced managed service. By this one means getting a third party to manage server, Db, apps, email, security, firewalls & backups etc on their own computers at a data-center. The whole thing runs over existing adsl (& faster) lines (reduced infrastructure issues) and for this service the business pays a annual charge

The benefits of this approach regarding cost and specialist expertise are huge and far outweigh any potential downside; furthermore it allows one to concentrate on the core business rather that keeping ancilliary services running

You don't generally generate you own electricity or service the company car yourself; you get specialists to do the job - so whats the difference with computers

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31st Oct 2005 17:58

Practice tools integration?
Excellent posts by JC and Alastair on this topic. The world is changing, albeit slowly, for even the smallest practices. For effective operations, there has to be integration between practice management, tax and prep software at the very least. I'd argue that's a recipe for lock-in. You can argue that 1-stop shopping represents an ideal vendor management scenario. Sure - but it doesn't mean best in class processes. That's a very different thing. SQL Server is only a component of that so to talk intregration in the same breath a la IRIS is marketing BS. Different vendors offer different solutions to different parts of the overall problem. No-one's got it all cracked.

If hosted solutions in the accounts prep area take off, that changes the game completely. In that scenario, you might want to think about having more stuff hosted. If nothing else, it's an interesting idea.

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27th Oct 2005 20:47

Oh dear , "we lead, others follow".......
Andy, your comments make me remember the slogan of one of my clients, as quoted above.

Like Nick, I also have no connection with Digita, other than as a paying client. Oh dear, Sage, IRIS and possibly others are, indeed, following along later.

Digita has been on SQL (which has, as you say been around for many a year, as I understand, invented by researchers in IBM) and .NET (been around a comparatively short time and invented by researchers in Microsoft fairly recently, shortly to be moving on to .NET V2 next week!!) for a while.

They lead while others follow, but, of course, you may find that truth unpalatable.

Still, never mind, my software is at the forefront of technology - and no problems. Indeed,, sometimes I, as an accountant acting on behalf of my clients, wonder how I could face Blair's and Brown's increasingly complex tax and business world without them.

Incidentally, for the record, I use Taxablility Pro, Accounts Pro and their little but great E-Forms progam. Wild horses would not make me change!!

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By jacp400
26th Oct 2005 22:27

Access Accounts
Not every SQL product is the same - you can bolt SQL on as a receptical for the data or you can use Stored Procedures, APIs etc for more efficient use. Access Accounts had this cracked years ago.

PS I wasnt sure of the teacher reference myself :o)


John Clough

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By NeilW
28th Oct 2005 10:08

Show me the profit.
SQL server is just a database, and frankly no better or worse than any other. I detect marketing hype being swallowed here.

The ulimate test of any machinery, computerised or otherwise, is does it reduce the time required per item, the labour cost per item, or produce something new that is of value to clients.

I'd prefer to see less flannel about the curves on the dashboard and more concrete data on the fuel consumption.


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26th Oct 2005 17:17

what is the relevance of your comment?

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26th Oct 2005 15:34

Teacher walks into class and announces that he has a new DVD containing the complete works of shakespear.

Little boy pipes up, "I have had all of the individual scripts on CD for ages"

Teacher just smiles knowingly !

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28th Oct 2005 09:23

John and Andy
John, I am a sole practitioner and my only connection to IRIS is that I use it.

Andy - well done in reading between the lines, I am sure your clients will benefit from you being able to see outside of the box!

John, your comments, "we lead others follow" is an interesting one. Yes, Digita has been on SQL for ages and it works, nothing wrong with that. However, what real benfits does it actually give you? SQL is only a database (engine), the real value inherent within a database is when it offers you value - i.e. it is a truly integrated, single database which will ultimately cut down on the time needed to do compliance work.

In fact, it could very much be argued that it is IRIS that leads and others that follow. IRIS has always been a truly integrated system, everybody else now markets their products as being 'integrated' - who was there first!

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28th Oct 2005 14:41

Death and taxes
I'm not sure I understand either the excitement or debate around MS SQL Server. Depending on the definition of 'larger practices,' I'd expect at least some of them to be reviewing MySQL.

I'm thinking long term flexibility and the ability to use the right tool for the job. At present, once a vendor has got a toe in the door, chances are they're looking for long term lock-in. That's fine if you believe in a world where all products from a single vendor have similar 'goodness.' That's not true. In the longer term, proprietary puts everyone on an equal footing - locked in to a 'standard,' usually Microsoft centric offering that rarely allows for differentiation in the way software is used for competitive advantage.

Proprietary software is becoming a redundant concept in a world where functional depth and completeness is being questioned. What's wrong with 'good enough' software that has essential features that can be used in new and interesting ways?

There will always be exceptions - Excel is too deep in the business to be ousted any time soon but those exceptions are diminishing in number.

OK - so OSS has a whiff of 'geekness' about it and a lot of 'stuff' is poorly supported. But some is extremely well suported. I'd argue the 'geek' related factors are starting to fade as reasons NOT to adopt. Why?

1. With OSS you can try before committing to deployment resource.
2. If the first offering doesn't do it for you, then it's easy to move on and try another.
3. If I can install OSS then anyone can.
4. Overall cost of ownership is lower with OSS.
5. With OSS, I can have many services hosted without having to worry about performance (most of the time) - another cost saver.

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By LauraLC
28th Oct 2005 12:37

It's about scalability and standardisation...
I would imagine the move to SQL Server is being trumpeted because it will allow them to sell into large practices that have existing infrastructure.

Company's that are large enough to have IT departments are likely to be running SQL Server (if they're a Microsoft shop), so it therefore makes sense to offer a product that can be run on their existing servers.

This has the advantage that things , like database maintenance and backup can be covered by existing staff without any difficulty. Additionally with the database being held on a SQL Server, it's possible to tailor the performance of the database to the needs of the company. Got a lot of users hammering the software, just increase the processing power at the server.

Systems using proprietary databases , or databases designed for personal/ low end use, will struggle to scale up to a large number of users.

Small users will probably find very little exciting in the move the to SQL Server - in fact some might find that having to run a copy of MSDE on a single machine may increase the memory required to run the software.

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By LauraLC
28th Oct 2005 15:57

marketing hype..
The point is if you're already running SQL Server for other parts of the business(as I know a number of large practices do) it makes sense to leverage your existing infrastructure.

Its not a case of putting more than one thing on a server , its about using your database server for what it was intended for, ie taking the task of managing your information off of generally under powered local machines and concentrating it in one place, where if you do upgrade the hardware everyone benefits from that performance boost, not just the one person whose local machine got an upgrade.

If your company doesn't already have a SQL Server then that point on the software feature list won't have any resonance to you.

Re: reducing software development costs, yes of course that plays a part. Writing efficient database engines is generally something that is best left to experts, and maintaining a proprietary database engine can be drain on development effort.

Running your database on a server can be more efficient in terms of network traffic than machines trying to get at data from a database file on the network because the set of data being sent and returned has already been filtered at both server and client ends.

In an ideal world the software providers would support a number of options for backend server , be that MS SQL Server, Oracle 10g , or MySQL.

I will say at this point that I don't work for Iris, so the fact that their new product runs on SQL Server is neither here nor there for me.

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26th Oct 2005 14:37

were on SQL ages ago and are great

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By NeilW
28th Oct 2005 14:21

Marketing hype
offer a product that can be run on their existing servers.

I have yet to see a MS shop that puts more than one thing on a server. That would be too much for a point and click adminstrator to handle.

What you say about standardisation is true, but fundamentally this is about reducing development costs by sitting on the framework that Microsoft have decided you will use from now on. That framework requires a great deal of computing power simply to operate. Older PC and network structures will not be able to cope.

I would get used to a two or three year replacement cycle on all your equipment and software, and cost accordingly - because that's how MS and its partners make their money. It's leasing by the back door.


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27th Oct 2005 17:35

put your dunces hat back on and go and stand in the corner, another star pupil who fails to understand whats your excuse.... and oh yes what connection do you have to any of these companies i have none and for that matter Sue as well

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