Editor’s note: In partnership with Local Tech Wire, Raleigh Metro Magazine has just published its annual High-Tech 100 issue. In the third part of exclusive, online stories, LTW today examines the state of the region’s software industry.People aside, software is the common thread that enables companies to accomplish more with less. Software is as prevalent as the interface that greets us at our PC and as concealed as the application than runs our cell phone. In fact, software is created with software.

The Research Triangle is blessed with a number of cutting-edge software firms, including SAS which is the world’s largest privately held code giant. But Local Tech Wire’s list includes more than giants.

If venture capital is the oxygen of the tech economy, the software is blood on which it runs.

Here’s a look at software companies worthy of special attention in the coming year:

TogetherSoft

TogetherSoft of Raleigh is gaining recognition in the trade press and, more importantly, among global enterprise customers for its collaborative software development tool — Together ControlCenter. Developers can work on independent components of a new software solution and keep in sync as it evolves by sharing common diagrams, languages and software with Together ControlCenter. Companies like SprintPCS have used it to create e-business applications.
Since its inception in 1999, TogetherSoft has captured 4,000 users worldwide including eight of the top ten Fortune 100 organizations. During 2001, the company reported revenues of $47 million and was named among the top 500 fastest growing technology companies by Deloitte & Touche. Once this company ramps up its marketing efforts, it may well dominate this space for years to come.

Alerts.com

Being in sync is also at the heart of Alerts.com line of real-time business software solutions. Their PortalAlerts, SalesAlerts and WebAlerts programs monitor information within databases, Intranets, files, and Web sites and notate new or changed data. Individual users then receive updates via email, cell phone, pager, Blackberry, PDA — really any device, anywhere — so it is possible to operate with the most up-to-date information at all times. Whereas, the company previously focused on alerting individual consumers, it now concentrates on finding enterprise clients who can use alerts to leverage CRM efforts. Since 1998, Alerts has seen its fair share of venture capital and has survived restructuring and layoffs. Today, they have some high-profile clients such as CNNSI, The Gallup Organization, Bankrate.com, and Lycos Wired News. Still, competition in this space is ramping up as more organizations embrace wireless and CRM technology. Time will tell if Alerts.com has a head start.

SAS

SAS, no doubt, is the region’s software gorilla. It’s business intelligence products continue to make strides. The future has indeed caught up with SAS as companies look inward and analyze their operations, relationships and resources. SAS software solutions can help organizations understand how to manage data, processes, people, IT assets, finances, and risk so they can solve problems and identify new opportunities.

With the general availability of SAS Text Miner, companies have the power to extract knowledge from data and text scattered about the connected world, and organize the information into meaningful patterns. Core industries heavily involved in data mining include: financial services, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, and fraud detection. Their entire suite of products will feed the fervor to find out what’s going on, and suggest a course of action.

Relativity

Moving old, yet important, legacy data into modern computing applications is the expertise of Cary-based Relativity Technologies. Finding relevance within software systems created for another time and place is the role of Relativity’s RescueWare. It initially will inventory, analyze and document the existing system and covert the valuable code into new Web-enabled software components. This reengineering process is no small feat, but it is far more cost-effective than writing entirely new programs.
Analysts report that at least 40 percent of enterprises will be engaged in some form of architectural re-engineering of their core business applications by 2003 and Relativity is a clear leader in this space. But even as Relativity captures attention near and far in the mainstream press, its cash crunch created a need for cost cutting, including staff downsizing and salary cuts. CEO Vivek Wadhwa has also had health troubles. Is that all behind them now?

NetIQ

Another company focusing on making the most of e-business initiatives is NetIQ (Nasdaq:NTIQ). Based in San Jose, CA, with operational personnel in Raleigh, NetIQ has the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of software solutions for systems management, security and web analytics. Its products span the full e-business lifecycle: testing, migration, administration, performance monitoring, security, and reporting. Its WebTrends Intelligence Suite (acquired in a 2001 merger) is a critical tool for online marketers who analyze visitor behavior and ROI on e-business. NetIQ stands to gain ground as organizations are faced with new network protocols.

IP Infusion

The next generation of communications, networking and wireless equipment has created a demand for advanced networking software. IP Infusion’s Cary-based development group, is poised to meet this demand head on with its ZebOS• IP routing and switching software that can be embedded in equipment or used on a standard server platform. As the business world migrates toward higher interface speeds and data customized for Internet travel, IP Infusion will deliver the software to make it possible. Its customers include equipment manufacturers, service providers, enterprises, and network processor vendors.

Collegis

Investing in IT infrastructure is nothing new to higher education institutions. In fact, a huge challenge facing these institutions is how to leverage the ongoing IT investments they must bear to serve their campus. Collegis insists they can solve this problem with a combination of support services they offer. Collegis is the union of Morrisville-based Eduprise and Florida-based Collegis that sells business, technology and curriculum services to more than 110 colleges and universities nationally.

One leg of the company supports Web-based academic course work and distance learning with custom software, implementation and ongoing evaluation. Staff training and strategic planning is also provided. The other leg supports the substantial IT infrastructure required for an online academic program. Collegis will manage only this component or take on the entire management of the day-to-day network across the campus.

With e-learning predicted to swell in the near future and the trends of IT outsourcing, Collegis should be able to keep their momentum going–especially if they keep signing multi-million dollar contracts.

Red Hat

Meanwhile, Red Hat, Inc. (Nasdaq:RHAT) may have appeared to fizzle, but it deserves a closer look. The Linux debate is heating up. A survey of IT professionals told News.com earlier this year they consider Red Hat one of the “most relevant” companies to their business in the next five years. Apparently, this is because half of all respondents believe Linux will play a “significant” or “major” role in their company’s business plans.

As enterprises begin to weigh the option between commercial software and movement software, Red Hat is focused on building momentum in that market. The company inked a deal with Dell Computer and Oracle to sell its Advanced Server operating system on Dell servers with a certified, out-of-the-box configuration. Red Hat’s goal is to educate companies about the value of Linux and be there with open arms when they are ready to make the move. Until then, adversaries will continue to throw caution to the IP and security issues that continue to swirl. The question remains: Will Red Hat change the landscape of computing?

Engenious

Engineous Software is clearly making money. They have captured 55 percent of the total worldwide software revenue used in design and simulation of complicated industrial processes. Its flagship product iSight is designed so that even non-technical staffers can use it to model new designs and know that it still meets specific engineering requirements. iSight links CAD geometry, simulation and analysis, and production with business systems. With a client roll call of Fortune 100 manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive, electronics, and industrial equipment industries, it’s one to watch.

Raindrop Geomagic

Applications created by Raindrop Geomagic in RTP are yet another example of how manufacturers are using models in their design process. Geomagic Studio has patented a new process for capturing laser scans of 3D photography that automatically creates a detailed 3D digital polygon model. The image can then be compared to a CAD design or prototype and edited to create a near-flawless design. Geomagic Qualify is the quality assurance component that simplifies computer-aided inspection. If CEO Ping Fu is right and mass customization is the wave of the future, Geomagic has a bright one ahead.

InfoStrength

Raleigh-based InfoStrength has unique expertise that is becoming vital to the exploding biotech community. They create custom web-based software applications that meet HIPAA and FDA requirements primarily for the life sciences industry and help establish critical systems that address such regulatory issues as FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and GxP. Whew! They also have the expertise to redesign legacy computer systems to track cGMP applications and develop 21 CFR Part 11-compliant IT applications. If all this sounds too complicated, it is. But, dealing with the government always is, and these drug development companies need the best possible solution to manage the research and government approval process. Infostrength can not be ignored.

FormScape

Simplifying forms is more the style of FormScape, not the government. It has a simple way for companies to create a central Web-based repository for the storage, retrieval and distribution of electronic documents. When people finally realize it is worth the expense to get electronically organized, Formscape is positioned to be a leader.

Empliant

Maintaining paperwork for employees is another data intensive chore that has been simplified by Empliant. They have created a Web-based human resources administrator. They have a solid business plan targeting small and mid-size companies and by all indicators it should net $1 million in sales and achieve profitability by year end. There is no shortage of competition, but Empliant has a seasoned corporate HR exec in their corner.

Others to watch

Ultimus, meanwhile, continues to expand its Workflow offerings. SlickEdit is adding new tools.

Custom software developers shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Companies such as Interface Technologies, Inc. and Dashboard Systems hire their development teams out for special coding projects.

Startups that bear watching include CrossComm of Durham and Web Commerce Group of Raleigh.

For more information on the software list, see list:

Top 15 Software Firms: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=1898&k=14&I=02

Earlier stories:

On the Venture From: In Investment Circles These Days, What Is Ventured Is Carefully Done: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=1886

VC Watch: The Top 12 Firms www.localtechwire.com/article/cfm?u=1885&k=13&I=01

Monday’s story: Top Executives To Watch: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=1870&k=13&I=01