company insight sponsored by Sundog Software
Sundog Software: A Small Business Success
For the past 14 years, Sundog® Software LLC has been quietly providing the technology behind simulated skies, clouds, weather, and water for the biggest training and simulation companies around the world – with only one full-time employee.
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Making Synthetic Natural Environments Real
Sundog’s SilverLining™ Sky, Cloud, and Weather SDK and Triton™ Ocean SDK are software libraries used to augment virtual training environments with skies and oceans for any simulated time, conditions, and location. For flight simulation and maritime simulation, these are essential components for realistic training. Sundog offers an off-the-shelf, proven solution for real-time rendering of skies and oceans that meet all the training requirements they have seen over the years.
A Tiny Business with a Big Impact
On paper, Sundog Software LLC has one full-time employee: its founder and lead engineer, Frank Kane. “Technically we are a company of one, but in reality we have several contractors that keep our company and technology moving forward,” says Kane. “Right now, some exciting new developments are in the works for multi-threaded rendering and GPU ray-casting technology; we don’t let our small size stand in the way of rapid innovation.” SilverLining and Triton have both seen hundreds of incremental updates over the years and remain in active development as they take advantage of new underlying technologies.
The Story of Sundog
“This all started as a side project,” recounts Kane. “I had left a job as an engineer at a simulation and training company to start a new career at Amazon in Seattle… but my heart was still in real-time computer graphics.” The SilverLining Sky, Cloud, and Weather SDK was born over many nights and weekends, and initially released as a product in 2006. “It turned out SilverLining filled a need in the simulation and training industry, and it grew through word of mouth those first few years. Eventually, I was able to ‘quit my day job’ and devote myself to Sundog Software full time – and I’ve never looked back,” says Kane.
Staying Small Has Advantages
Despite Sundog’s small size, it has proven resilient through the ups and downs of economies and defense spending over the years. “We’ve built up a diverse customer base around the world, as well as a diverse set of products over the years” says Kane. “Our revenue has grown every year, largely because we’re not reliant on a handful of big government contracts, and our software is inexpensive enough to be accessible even in challenging times. We even expect growth in 2020, despite the global pandemic and its effects.”
More importantly, being small allows great agility. “There are no office politics or processes slowing things down at Sundog Software; if a customer has an issue, we just fix it immediately and provide them with a new build of our software. I think our customers greatly value our responsiveness, and that keeps feeding our word-of-mouth cycle,” says Kane. “We’ve had plenty of people offering to invest in Sundog Software, or even acquire it, to make it bigger. But I like it the way it is, and so do our customers.”
Small Company, Larger Risk?
An objection to placing such critical technology in the hands of a small company is the risk of what happens if that company fails. “Well, we’ve been around 14 years now and are still growing, with no debt, low operating expenses, and positive cash flow from day one,” comments Kane. “I think we’re in much better shape than most larger companies. But it’s a valid concern that a company built on just a few key people carries risk if something happens to one of them. That’s why we offer the full source code of our software to our customers; even if I get hit by a bus, they will still have what they need to continue innovating and expanding upon the technology they have purchased.”
Simple and Accessible Licensing
Another advantage of staying small is low expenses, which means lower prices passed on to Sundog’s customers. Licenses for the SilverLining™ Sky, Cloud, and Weather SDK and Triton™ Ocean SDK are only $4500 USD, including source code – and there are no hidden per-channel or per-developer costs involved. “We want licensing our technology to be a no-brainer compared to developing it from scratch yourself,” says Kane. “Our pricing keeps it accessible without requiring lots of finance approvals; many of our customers just buy licenses on our website using a corporate credit card and are done with it.”
Free evaluation SDK’s are available at the Sundog Software website.