When Gary McMullen first began hunting for a development platform for his company, he had a slew of criteria in mind – the technology needed to be scalable, it needed to be easy to use, and it had to have staying power.

That was back in the 1980s, and as the president and owner of CardWatch POS, a company providing point-of-sales (POS) terminals to cafeterias and dining rooms in retirement homes and colleges, McMullen wanted to take time to consider his choice. After a 90-day demo run with Progress Software Corp., a U.S.-based software company, it became his pick – and his company has partnered with Progress ever since.

“Back in the eighties, with a POS product, we had to write on our own interface,” says McMullen, whose company has offices in Toronto, Newmarket, Ont., and Florida. “But Progress Software had all the tools in place … I thought of switching, but nothing else compares.”

CardWatch now uses Progress Software’s OpenEdge product suite for its POS terminals, serving about 100 clients. While U.S.-based retirement homes make up most of its client base, it also works with around 10 Canadian customers, including Algonquin College in Ottawa.

What sets Progress Software apart is that it provides a faster way of building applications, McMullen says. Using both on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure, its customers can build on top of it without having to write a lot of code.

In fact, what would be 200 lines of code in another language is cut down to just 22 lines on Progress Software’s OpenEdge platform, using Advanced Business Language, says Mark Troester, senior director of Pacific product management and solution marketing at Progress Software.

“That’s huge for productivity,” he says. “And OpenEdge has a completely embedded, self-contained database, so its reputation is that it’s very reliable. It takes very little administration.”

Having a no-fuss solution is key for CardWatch. At Algonquin College alone, the company’s POS system needs to handle as many as 50,000 transactions spread out over 30 POS terminals in one day, McMullen says.

“On the backend, the application decides if a customer’s meal … can go against a meal plan. Then the POS takes care of the order, and pushes the bucket of products to the decision-making, which then posts it to the account. It all happens in a nanosecond,” he says.

McMullen adds that many of CardWatch’s clients don’t have database administrators, and most don’t even have IT staff. In fact, before they began using CardWatch’s solutions, many of the clients were asking their staff to manually punch in their customers’ meal plans and add-ons, resulting in slower service and a lot of mistakes.

Going forward, he says he’s confident his company will keep working with Progress Software, especially as it continues to update to keep up with new operating systems. For example, the company makes it easy to port applications between Unix and Windows, without having to change any of their code. Progress Software’s product suite, OpenEdge, also has a mobile development system that makes it easy to port apps to Android or Apple.

Still, the most compelling reason for McMullen’s decision to keep working with Progress is that it hasn’t failed him yet, he says.

“We need speed and reliability,” he says. “In our history with Progress, we’ve never had a database crash … We’re going to continue to stick with Progress, as its development environment shelters us from worrying about keeping up.”

ITBusiness.ca will be covering Progress Software’s conference, Progress Exchange, in Orlando, Fla. in October.

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