SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Another batch of companies went through the grinder at Demo—the one conference that continues to focus on practical innovation—and surprise, there are some likely survivors. For the first time, the majority of exhibitors and demonstrators at the conference focused on tactical solutions aimed at the enterprise. Most of the venture capitalists surely were confused. Chris Shipley, who runs the conference, said that “800 companies used to come through here, but now it is less than half of that.” But she added, “the quality is better.”
Clearly the quality of the demonstrators was excellent, but it didnt start out that way. The first two exhibitors were straight out of 1997. TerraDigital Systems Terraplayer Internet Radio is clearly fun (and expensive), but also useless to anyone in the enterprise. Likewise theres nothing from FullAudio that appeals to the IT crowd, and in fact the ability to play and download music probably works against anyone trying to manage a network in the enterprise.
Things improved significantly from there. Grouped into the “Finding Information” category, Groxis Inc., OpenCola, and Meaningful Machines proved once again that we have no idea where our data is. They also proved that the technological answer to this problem is suspect at best. Groxiss Grokker, for example, is a fascinating search engine that combines the power of Google with a document management system. The innovation with the Grokker is with its interface, which blends the hyperbolic tree concept of The Brain with the encapsulation technique of Copernic. With the Grokker, what its doing is not new, its the way that it gets it done. Any knowledge worker is eventually going to need something like the Grokker or Copernic simply to fix issues inherent with an individuals inability to store things correctly.
Gary Gunnerson, IT architect at Gannett, said “What are we doing, going back to Stranger in a Strange Land? We saw several products [including Grokker] that increase the relevancy of information to the end user. Search engines arent enough is the statement that is being made.”
OpenCola, meanwhile, attempts to dig through corporate knowledge and connect people together based on that knowledge. At its core, OpenCola blends document management and messaging, including e-mail and IM. For example, a user may be working on a specific legal case. That user sends out a request to the OpenCola server, which in turn keeps an index of documents that were made available and people who have knowledge of the case or appropriate laws. The user then can access the document, contact the person, and collaborate. Its the perfect people and knowledge broker.
Three industries in which this will be successful: consultants, applied science disciplines, and financial institutions, specifically brokerages. The issue working against OpenCola is simply how to explain the security model. If a user makes some documents available but shouldnt have, does OpenCola know enough to pull back on the document before its too late?
A New Portal Business Model
Joe Firmage is thought by many to be too far ahead of his time. He created a development program that preceded and superceded Visual Basic. He sold it to Novell while Netware was still the king of the hill. He was the CEO of US Web when consultants had it good and left before they became street drudge. He began uncovering the “truth” about UFOs before the first alien autopsy. Hes now the CEO of ManyOne Networks, which will be extremely difficult to explain in the two-dimensional world.
ManyOnes Universal Browser is basically a business model and a three-dimensional browser visualization and content aggregator that allows private organizations to create their own AOL or MSN like portals. Those portals, however, are truly differentiated from anything weve ever seen. Instead of an explanation, check out www.manyone.net, download the Universal Brower (on or after February 28th), and let us know what you think.
Demo Takes on the
Demo Takes on the Enterprise
If any theme emerged from Demo, its that enabling organizations to make use of what theyve got should be the core of any new business plan. While we acknowledge that this is not a surprising new aspect of the technology world, there are some innovative companies that offer new products to enable more efficient networks.
The best of this group was Vieo, a company that will probably have to spend at least an hour explaining what it does simply to get in the door of any organization. Vieo essentially takes available CPUs and systems and virtualizes them with a hardware appliance. This in turn allows administrators to control fairly discreetly all the resources of the network.
This sounds exactly like what Sun is doing with N1 or IBM and HP with their on-demand computing initiatives. The difference is that Vieos AAIM (Adaptive Application Infrastructure Management) platform exists now.
Putting this technology in something like Tivoli would have created a dramatically different world. IBM is trying to do this right now. Vieo, whose CEO founded Tivoli and whose CTO was Tivolis CTO, has a good years head start on anything else out there.
ITworx, which was one of more than a dozen Boston-area based companies at Demo, also demonstrated how to extend the capacity of an existing infrastructure. The companys NetCelera product sits at each end of a WAN network and compresses and multiplexes all the IP traffic and reassembles it at the other end. The result is what ITworx officials claim will be a 10x improvement in efficiency of the network.
Since some traffic, like streaming video, does not compress well, Netcelera includes a policy management console that controls the type and priority of the traffic. Products like this should definitely be evaluated, but security and fault tolerance should be investigated as a normal due diligence effort.
Applications Take Stage
The quote of the day has to go to Certive CEO Ford Goodman, who said “watching IT implement BI is like watching Sisyphus on Speed.” Clearly Ford has good speech writers or is well versed in the complexities of business intelligence and Greek mythology.
Certives Performance Intelligence software however is clearly differentiated from the rest of the business intelligence crowd. That group led to business intelligence being labeled as an oxymoron and the creation of a secondary term called analytics. First of all, Certives solution is fundamentally easier to use, especially for the business user. Secondly, it offers predictive modeling without having to resort to separate applications. The biggest issue with Certive is that the tough part of business intelligence is how to connect the various data pools together in order for a software solution to make sense of them in the first place. Certive makes some strides here with a grid-like approach to data modeling; however, it may take just as much work to connect into the data model as with other BI solutions. From appearances though, the Certive model clearly raises the bar in BI from the end-user perspective.
Application vulnerabilities are among the biggest problems in computing today. A simple look at how fast the SQL Slammer worm spread to unpatched systems proves this. Two companies that should be working together as soon as possible approach the problem from different angles.
BigFix—the enterprise company with a consumer name—takes patch management to a new level. Using a technology called “Fixlets,” BigFix is able to update and patch vulnerabilities on Windows operating systems immediately. BigFix goes beyond the Windows Update feature which is ignored by many and turned off by others and forces patches to be installed from an administrator console. BigFix faces big issues though—it needs to work in a heterogeneous environment and needs to prove that it will stay a step ahead of Microsofts mission with how updates eventually will work.
One way it can do this is by partnering with PreCache, a company that provides a platform for discreet publish and subscribe communications. PreCache is funded by Sony of all things; however, by providing detailed pub/sub technology to all computing devices, PreCache is going to change the face of mobile computing.
On the other hand, PreCaches first mission is to replace and enhance the automatic update features used for patch management. The problem with automatic updates is that the vendor needs to package updates together and ship them out, say on a weekly basis. PreCache enables a less expensive and more discreet way of publishing those updates.
Eventually PreCache will be known as the CICs of the mobile and set-top box world, which is why Sony is investing. For now, its the Pointcast of patch management.