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KOM to debut OptiLogger for storage-intensive applications

by Tamara Gignac

It's a long way from Kuwait to Kanata, but miles mean nothing to Taher Shaath. An astute businessman with 35 years experience in technology consulting, his software company claims an enviable market share and a customer base of more than 7,000 worldwide. "To achieve what we've achieved is unbelievable. To be always ahead, and to be a pioneer of this craft is satisfying at the end of the day," says Shaath.

The 63-year-old owner and chief executive officer of KOM Inc., located just outside Ottawa, can hardly contain his excitement. At the end of the month, the company plans to launch OptiLogger, an electronic storage device 14 years in the works.

With OptiLogger, more than 64 channels can log, retrieve and replay information simultaneously. The product will act as an archival resource for hospitals, police and businesses with an excess of data to store.

If OptiLogger is the success Shaath hopes it will be, it follows on the heels of a long line of triumphs for KOM — such as OptiTape, an optical tape library, and OptiHSM for NT, which stores, compresses and moves data.

But there were times of uncertainty. Eight years ago, Shaath discovered KOM and took a shine to the company's jukebox-type devices, then capable of storing 1,000 CD-ROMS. "I was impressed by the sophistication and technology," he says. "I saw taking over KOM as a personal challenge."

Assisted by private investors, he bought the company and moved his entire family to Canada from the Middle East, where he had built a reputation in technology consulting.

The company's OptiServer for VMS and Unix offered solutions to meet the increasing demand for storage-intensive applications, such as document imaging and data warehousing. With seamless integration, cost-effective storage and quick access to volumes of data, companies around the world started buying KOM's storage devices.

But Shaath still had a few curves in the road ahead of him. Why wasn't KOM seeing the profits it anticipated? While the demand for optical storage was exploding, KOM needed to be restructured from the bottom up.

"For five consecutive years, we concentrated on selling specifically to end users. But the growth was never what we expected," says Shaath. "I studied this carefully and I knew something had to be done."

Enter Richard Game, former vice-president of marketing and sales with General Electric. At Game's recommendation, KOM made the transition in the mid-'90s to selling primarily through distributors and VARs — a risky venture with potentially disastrous results for a company sailing into uncharted territory.

Shaath had confidence in his new vice-president, but hardly dared to breathe during the initial transition period. "We took a very dangerous route," he says. "I don't need to mention how many companies have gone bankrupt after such dramatic restructuring."

For now, Shaath can exhale. Since changing its sales model, KOM's revenues have increased to more than $3 million annually and its number of employees has jumped from 18 to 50. In North America, the company boasts an impressive clientele, from NASA and Shell Oil in the U.S. to the CBC and the Department of National Defence in Canada. And, most tellingly, the number of software licences sold by KOM doubled last year.

Game takes it all in stride, firm in his belief that it takes more than good technology to maintain success. "At the end of the day, you've got to be able to sell," he says. "We've experienced some pretty dramatic restructuring, but the results are clear."

Source: IT Business

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