Good Software Never Dies – ALL-IN-1 becomes Enterprise Vault

In 1979, John Churin and I created an enterprise Office Automation product called ALL-IN-1.  I left the full time management of the project in 1986 and then left Digital Equipment Corporation in 1990.  For some 18 years, ALL-IN-1 generated $1 Billion in sales for DEC.  I next encountered ALL-IN-1 while consulting with Health Partners in 1999.  I was pretty confident that the software wouldn’t last beyond 2000 because of several Y2K issues I knew were buried in the software.

By 2000, I was enmeshed in yet another startup, creating Attenex Patterns for eDiscovery. In 2007 we lured Greg Buckles (now of eDiscovery Journal) away from Symantec where he was a senior product manager for the Enterprise Vault product.  Greg has an impish sense of humor and was constantly dropping random hints that we had a very interesting professional connection.  Even when he talked about spending a lot of time in Reading, England when he was at Symantec, I still didn’t catch on.

One afternoon, in a bar of course, at the St Paul Hotel in St Paul, MN, with our colleagues from a recently completed EDRM meeting, we were challenging each other with past war stories. Present at the table were George Socha (founder of EDRM), Laura Kibbe and Kevin Esposito (formerly Pfizer’s Directors of eDiscovery), Greg and me.  Greg suddenly announced “There is somebody at this table that has created the two highest revenue generating products in the eDiscovery industry.  Can you guess who?”

I knew that I had created one of them in Attenex Patterns.  Yet, as I looked around the table, I wasn’t aware that any of my colleagues had ever created even one software product.  Greg elaborated further “And Pfizer uses both products every day.”

Now we were all confused. Then with a big Cheshire Cat grin, Greg shared “Skip, it is you.”

I responded “What are you talking about Greg?  I created Attenex Patterns, but not any other eDiscovery products.”

Greg’s grin got even wider when he shared “You never knew that Symantec’s Enterprise Vault product was really ALL-IN-1.”

I had no idea.  So for the next half hour, Greg shared the story of how when DEC was sold to Compaq, Nigel Dutt, one of the UK ALL-IN-1 developers, bought ALL-IN-1 and turned it into today’s Symantec Enterprise Vault (after some intermediary mergers and acquisitions).  I was stunned.

A month later on one of his visits to Seattle, Greg came over to our house for a wine and glass tasting with some wonderful Archery Summit Pinot Noir.  He was kind enough to share the evolutionary story of ALL-IN-1 with my wife.  She pleaded with him to write the story so that she could share it with our children.  Greg agreed.

A few days later this wonderful fairy tale showed up from Greg:

“Once upon a time, in the old kingdom of DEC, there lived a wizard named Skip. This wizard belonged to a cabal that was building a special spell, called the All-In-One Spell. The cabal worked long and hard to make the spell that would store whatever you needed. Then the evil Compaq Compact plotted the overthrow of the kingdom of DEC. The wizard Skip escaped the invasion, but many of the cabal were captured and forced to work on the spell, turning it into a spell vault to hold all the whisperings within a kingdom safely locked away.

“But the evil Compaq could not control the cabals, wizards and spells that they had taken, so many wizards escaped and took the spells with them. The wizard Nigel escaped with the Vault and ran back to the same castle in Reading where the spell had first been born. He gathered as many of the original cabal as he could find and they cast the spell for many kingdoms.

“The Vault spell was so powerful that almost all of the greedy gnomes with banks along the great Street of the Wall used the spell to listen to the whispers of all of their trader gnomes. But the trader gnomes got greedy and began to steal from everyone. So the great sheriff Spitzer declared war upon the merchant gnomes and all the other great houses of trade. He demanded all of their hoarded whispers to find the bad gnomes.

“In the far west, the House of El Paso struggled to fend off the attacks of the sheriffs. They hired a young wizard named Greg to find all the whispers and deliver them to the sheriffs, but he needed the Vault spell to do it. He made another spell to work with the Vault. A spell that saved his House and many other Houses under assault.

“The time of troubles passed, but Kingdoms, Counties and Houses across the world wanted the Vault and the new Discovery spell to protect themselves. Great bags of gold came to the Knowledge Vault Sorcerers and they grew rich. So rich that great kingdoms vied to buy the secret code of the Vault. The kingdom of Symantec bought the spells and many of the Cabal went forth to start new cabals that created spells to understand all of the whispers captured in all of the Vaults.

“Wizard Skip had created many spells since his time with the kingdom of DEC. His reputation had grown and his spell was the strongest spell for understanding the Patterns in the whispers. The House of Ten Times was known far and wide for the power of their spells.

“Always seeking to work with the best spells in all the lands, wizard Greg joined the House. He knew that wizard Skip had helped create the great Vault spell, but did not reveal his own spells to Skip. For many moons they worked together, but the House of Ten Times had  become too complacent with the success of the Patterns spell. Each wizard decided that it was time to leave. Only then, did the younger wizard show to his elder how his code had grown and what it had become.

“Small spells may become great spells and great spells may give birth to small spells. The wheels turn, but the Patterns remain the same.”

What amazes me some 32 years later is how a software product  two of us started in a tiny office in Charlotte, NC, is still alive and well and generating more than $250M a year in revenue.

This entry was posted in ALL-IN-1, Content with Context, Relationship Capital, social networking, User Experience, Value Capture, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Good Software Never Dies – ALL-IN-1 becomes Enterprise Vault

  1. Kathy says:

    wow cuz….you never shared with the family that you were doing all this stuff!!

  2. Nigel says:

    Hi Skip – this is the “Nigel” that Greg talks about and I think we must have fed him too much Guinness in Reading. What happened was that Digital effectively put ALL-IN-1 into maintenance around 1997 (I was Chief Architect at the time, and we had put a LOT of development work into it since it moved to Reading – another story though) and while a few people stayed on to look after it, the majority of us ex-ALL-IN-1 engineers went off to invent a brand new Windows-based product, which turned out to be Enterprise Vault. So although there is no code connection between it and ALL-IN-1, there is a strong engineering link as quite a few of the people still working on EV right now at Symantec started working as a team on ALL-IN-1 going back to the mid 80’s.

    It was great to read your story about the origins of ALL-IN-1 and after it moved to Reading we kept up a close relationship with Charlotte.

  3. Greg Buckles says:

    I was lied to! I blame it on the copious quantities of Guiness! The origin story was obviously simplified in translation. In my own defense, this story was obviously widely accepted folklore.

    None the less, the spirit of the story lives on. My thesis remains that there are no new ideas and all code is basicly recycled.

  4. Nigel says:

    Hi Greg, very good to hear from you and of course it was great that you fell under the Vault spell (not to mention the Guinness spell) – I must admit I have heard that myth before, even amongst some non-engineering types at KVS, and I think it all stems from that fact that it was the ex ALL-IN-1 engineering team, as stated in the wiki, that did the Vault. Of course there is a genetic connection even if no actual code connection.

    I just wrote a summary of the Vault story here: and it starts with that era when the wicked Compaq first put a halt to ALL-IN-1 development and then canned our new baby just after it had been born…..

    • swaltersky says:

      Nigel and Greg,

      Thanks for setting the record straight and for providing your record of the Vault story. I had completely missed that pesky wizard of Guiness spell. I should have known as I’ve never been able to get Greg to convert from the Guiness spell to the Oregon Pinot Coastal Spell.

      Nigel, if you are still in the Bay Area, John Churin started an open source medical record software company, Tolven Health ( in memory of his wife. He lives North of San Francisco.


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