November 2, 2011

Seiwald: Why Version Everything is for Everyone

Version Control
Christopher Siewald
Christopher Siewald

"I was talking to a friend about what our software does. She manages lawyers. Right away she got it: 'Oh, it's like a legal document management system,' she said. The next thing she said was, 'Our system is awful,'" recalls Christopher Seiwald, CEO and founder of Perforce.

"She starts talking about rogue documents and I thought, she's speaking our language." Her lawyers were balking thanks to a system that was built on 30-year-old SCM technology: basic concepts such as letting two people edit one document. When the system didn't fit their workflow, they went back to email.

In the last 16 years, Perforce has grown to dominate software version management, with a customer base of 5,500 customers, a marquee list of brands (SAP, Industrial Light and Magic, Pixar, Adobe) and breathtakingly big deployments. That success has led Perforce to rethink its problem space.

"What we've noticed in the last 10 years is that people are using Perforce for more than just software," says Seiwald, who came up with an elegant vision: Version everything. Three initiatives are driving this concept: Perforce Chronicle, The Commons and the Perforce Ecosystem.

Chronicle is a web Content management system built on the SCM: "The feedback is that people like the simplicity of its interface and how easy it is to use," says Seiwald.

Perforce Commons is a simple desktop interface for versioning: "You drag it out, work on it, and drag it back when it's done." The product will be open-sourced.

The Ecosystem will be a full-featured forge for community and Perforce developers alike to create plugins, extensions, scripts and other apps.

These three are just the start. Where do you need Version everything?