DEMO bringing usefulness, simplicity to enterprise

Web 2.0 frenzy, smartphone enhancements, network testing highlight technology launchpad

Web 2.0 collaboration tools for businesses and smartphone applications highlight the DEMO launchpad for emerging technology.

Network World's DEMO always is a great event to check out cool new technologies for both consumers and businesses, but enterprise IT executives may want to pay particularly close attention when DEMO 08 hits Palm Desert, Calif. on Jan. 28.

DEMO Executive Producer Chris Shipley believes innovation in the enterprise is picking up, particularly in the area of collaborative tools.

“This is indicative of the Web 2.0 frenzy moving more toward business applications,” Shipley says.

About 80 new technologies will be unveiled at the event. Here are a few that might have an impact in the enterprise: solves a problem faced in a business world increasingly reliant upon global collaboration. The company is launching an instant-messaging service that translates text in real time, allowing communication between people who speak different languages.

SpeakLike

“There’s a lot more cross-border work with more global teams and outsourcing,” Shipley notes. “Having a resource that can help bridge the language barriers is valuable.”

SpeakLike is launching an invitation-only beta trial, with the service currently available in English, Spanish and Chinese. In the future, SpeakLike plans human-assisted translation chat (for a fee) and support for legal and medical translation specialties

Huddle.net is launching a virtual team workspace application for use in the popular social-networking site Facebook. Users of the Huddle network will be able to collaborate with teams inside and outside of Facebook, and use the site to send alerts, reminders and approvals for documents and projects.

While Facebook is a great social platform, Shipley says until now she had been waiting for real business applications to take advantage of it.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting as Facebook moves forward, you’ll see it move into the enterprise as a collaboration platform,” Shipley says.

Rove Mobile and Legitime Technologies are separately releasing applications designed to give smartphone users a richer experience that mimics the functionality of a PC. Rove Mobile is launching PCMobilizr, which gives smartphone users remote access to their personal computers. The tool goes beyond syncing and file-moving applications and lets users see their computer screens and have control over the keyboard and mouse.

Legitime focuses more specifically on improving the smartphone e-mail experience, with LegiText, a message management service that’s carrier-agnostic and integrates with Exchange, Lotus Notes and various Web e-mail services. Users can configure their in-boxes to display e-mails in order of importance; group messages by sender, topic, project team, or personal or professional relationship; have threaded, searchable conversations; and access various tools to enhance business collaboration.

Mandiant is unveiling Intelligent Response, a security program that combats malware, viruses and phishing attacks with technology that both detects and solves each problem, in some cases anticipating problems before they occur, Shipley says. Mandiant’s previous product, First Response, gives IT security the information it needs to respond to threats by collecting file lists, registry information, event logs and other crucial information.

“We’re still looking for a full security suite, and Mandiant moves closer to that,” Shipley says, hailing Intelligent Response’s ability to dramatically reduce threat response times.

Pathworks Software is unveiling its free Helpstream software-as-a-service product that the start-up says addresses customer relationship management and help desk needs at customer sites.

Helpstream has been in beta with more than 2,000 registered users since June 2007, and Pathworks CEO Anthony Nemelka says the application uses collaboration and Web technologies to help customers address end-user support within IT organizations when used for help-desk purposes. The software can also server as a CRM application for external customers, he says.

"The best way to think about Helpstream is that it combines classic case management with knowledge management and throws it out to the community for added input," Nemelka says. "Helpstream brings all that information into a single portal to speed problem resolution or address questions more quickly."

To sign up for the free service, IT managers visit Pathworks' Web site and input their e-mail address and choose a password. Pathworks then instantiates a private Helpstream workspace for the customer, who then has access to wizards and tutorials to get the service running.

While Pathworks plans to offer Helpstream as a free service, potential customers should be aware that the application is ad-supported -- with Network World being an advertiser with the company.

"We plan to make money over time in a way similar to open source software, by offering support packages or add-ons. But we can make this service available for free because our delivery costs are exceedingly low," Nemelka explains.

StackSafe will launch its Test Center virtual staging and testing environment. The company says the software, which sets up contained virtual environments for the purposes of testing new applications or changes to existing networks, will help IT operations managers determine the impact of proposed infrastructure and applications changes to an IT environment.

The software installs on a server, and IT managers interact with the application via a Web-based interface. Test Center comes with pre-defined tests, and customer can tailor tests to their needs, company officials say.

"The purpose of the software is to provide IT operations with an easy-to-deploy and -use application that helps them do a better job of change testing and impact analysis," says Dennis Powell, senior product manager at StackSafe.

Founded in late 2005, StackSafe brought in about $2.6 million in Series A venture capital funding, and the vendor has had its product in beta tests with customers throughout 2007, making it generally available in mid-December. StackSafe Test Center is licensed through a subscription model and costs $50,000 per year per Test Center instance.

Blist is at DEMO with a product that aims to make data management simple.

The Seattle start-up plans to do it with an open source database infrastructure, anchored in the Internet, and a highly graphical Web front end that, at its best, transforms database arcana like SQL query optimization and VARCHAR and Boolean operators into highly visual, drag-and-drop operations.

Blist founder Kevin Merritt claims that if you know how to use a spreadsheet application, you’re already familiar with the basic row-column metaphor that the Blist GUI uses. You can store text, numbers, photos, video and documents on the PostgreSQL-based storage service, and use Blist’s pre-populated, and community-shared, lists, checklists, tables and database templates. Working with a battery of tools, users can ask all kinds of questions of their data without having to learn SQL or programming languages.

A public beta starts in March, with general availability scheduled for April.

Network World Senior Editor John Cox contributed to this report.

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