Rookies Stay Home

Demo conference stresses experience.

Learning from experience seemed to be the theme at this years Demo conference, with startups vying to show off their technology and eager to acknowledge the fact that they have business plans.

Especially prominent among the 76 companies selected to attend the show, held in Phoenix, were those demonstrating software that solves technical and business problems and assumes the Internet as a design point.

Former Novell VP Chris Stone introduced Tilion, which makes hosted supply-chain management software. Stone, now Tilions CEO, says he got the idea for the company after Novell wrote off $265 million in inventory one quarter in 1997 because it could not see into its distributors.

"Youre supposed to have 30 days of inventory on hand, and ours was 80. It was a disaster," he says.

Tilion employs servlets that sit on the network and aggregate information from suppliers in XML. The data is mapped into a shared workspace, which issues a variety of reports. Stone says he uses Novell Directory Services "the way it was intended to be used"—as a directory of XML metadata and to manage Tilion, not printers. Novell CEO Eric Schmidt is on Tilions board.

InfoSeek founder Steve Kirsch introduced his new company, Propel, whose software includes a Java-based distributed services platform and an e-commerce suite. The platform has automatic clustering and replication and allows new modules to be added as customers site traffic grows. Backers include Dell Computer.

For the Linux crowd, Eazel showed off Nautilus, its Linux interface that will ship this spring with every copy of Red Hat Linux and Solaris, and on every Linux-enabled desktop or laptop from Dell. VP Brian Croll says Eazel has flipped the usual way of thinking about software by centering its design on content.

Nautilus is reminiscent of Microsofts vision for Internet Explorer, which was supposed to blur the line between users local hard drives and the Internet. However, Nautilus appearance is highly changeable, and it supports existing Internet standards. Eazel also will develop and sell services for Nautilus.

Demo also featured companies engaging in peer-to-peer and distributed computing. XDegrees is extending DNS so that a wider variety of network resources—including files, people and programs—can be located over the Internet. While DNS is capable of finding only one IP address, or physical server, at a time, XRNS (eXtensible Resource Name System, an aspiring Internet standard, can find many addresses, says CEO Michael Tanne.

XRNS, for instance, sorts through multiple copies of the same music file scattered around the network and delivers the one with the most efficient path.

XDegrees demonstrated an extension to Microsoft Outlook that creates a shared folder, or common work area, for people to share and track versions of files.