News and New Product Briefs (6/15/97)

Oracle debuts Internet Commerce Server

Oracle's Internet Commerce Server, code-named Apollo and based on Java, is soon to be shipping and will allow companies to set up commercial Web sites. Oracle's competition? IBM, Microsoft, and Netscape already have commerce servers on the market.

"We're later because we took the time to write the whole thing in Java, which makes our Commerce Server easier to integrate with the systems that run your business, whether it's SAP [AG client/server software] for inventory or whatever," said Randy Hodge, Oracle's product manager for the Internet Commerce Server.

The Commerce Server is bundled with the Oracle 7 database and customizable templates so developers can create transaction systems. It costs 0,000. And as part of the Server package, Oracle provides a consulting service to help integrate the server into clients' existing systems.

IBM printers get Java-enhanced network software

IBM Printing Systems has added Java enhancements to its Network Printer Management (NPM) software. The Java version of NPM lets network administrators access management features from any browser-enabled desktop running any platform. It will support some printers from Lexmark International and Hewlett-Packard. The Java module of NPM is available for free at IBM's home page.

With NPM, you can:

  • View the status of each printer, such as its alarm conditions.
  • View and change printer properties, such as the default input tray.
  • View and change printer network properties, such as the NetBIOS printer network workgroup name.
  • Add new network services to printers so you can customize the environment, such as creating high- and low-priority print services.

Intranet tool: Metro Autopilot

With Metro Autopilot, from Action Technologies, developers can test their Autopilot applications on Action's Web site for 30 days at no charge. Metro Autopilot is a free downloadable component that enables users of Action's Metro to build form-based approval applications and deploy them on the Internet.

The Autopilot software is now available on the site. If you're not familiar with Metro, the company claims that with it, anyone can build and deploy a fully functional intranet application in less than 10 minutes.

Intranet tool: Enterprise Web Manager

For 0,000, the Enterprise Web Manager from Aziza can deliver a multiserver Web management tool for the enterprise that offers centralized administrative control, site replication, uniform security access, link integrity, and decentralized authorship.

The Enterprise Web Manager comes in three parts:

  • The Administrator's Console -- provides intuitive graphical management of Web contents for security, physical distribution of content, searching, project management, and replication for non-stop operation. It will be available for Windows NT (now in beta testing stage).

  • The User's Console -- enables any authorized user to search for, create, and edit Web content. It works with standard browsers (Navigator Gold and Internet Explorer) and uses the same familiar Web interface. This Console is implemented in JavaScript, so you don't need to install additional software. It complements HTML and GIF editors.

  • The Web Object Manager -- contains an advanced- technology, object-oriented database designed to meet Web requirements and manage Web content, including HTML, GIF, Java, ActiveX, PDF, and such standards as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Lotus. It also maintains full-text search indexes, and manages document versioning and page meta data. The Web Object Manager enables content replication across multiple Web servers for non-stop operation and Web content availability even when part of your intranet is down.

The product is expected to ship in the third quarter of '97.

Intranet tool: Radcom response test

Radcom Equipment offers test software that lets network managers measure their intranets' response time and delay. At a cost of ,000, the software also tracks the flow of data through firewalls by simultaneously monitoring both the local and wide-area segments of an intranet link for latency and loss.

The application uses RADCOM multi-segment analyzers to capture live, operational data across different technologies. Using a correlated timestamp and a proprietary heuristic algorithm, the software automatically matches data captured on different segments and calculates latency and loss statistics. Such calculations can be performed regardless of the underlying technology or upper-layer protocols and are presented in an easy-to-use graphical as well as textual format.

Previously, the capability to automatically perform latency and loss measurements was limited to developers performing "black box" testing, by using a data generator to send data on one side of a device and capturing data on the other side. However, to perform these tests the developer had to model the expected traffic behavior of the actual network and would often get results different then those experienced in the operational network.

RADCOM's application, on the other hand, performs such measurements on real data traveling on an actual network, without the need to inject specific test traffic. In addition, the capability to capture data on several segments allows end users to track the exact device causing delay in a multi-segment network.

Intranet tool: Vision Jade

Vision Jade is Vision Software Tools's Java rapid app development environment that automates and manages the logic, data, and presentation levels of a business application. With Vision Jade, developers define and declare business rules, and then the software generates the Java code. The Java apps are component-based, which should make them faster than HTML-based code.

The environment has an Internet Explorer-style interface, events-based code editor, and wizards to help developers. The tool's application designer provides a high-level view of the application, the form designer gives control over the application's look and feel, and the code editor provides access to Java code for precise behavior. Jade can exchange components with those built in Visual J++ and Visual Cafe.

"First-generation Java development tools require developers to write lots of low-level, procedural code and to constantly reinvent the wheel," said Val Huber, Engineering VP at Vision Software. "Vision Jade leverages the time and expertise of developers by creating applications which are defined once using high-level business, data, and presentation rules. The applications can then be easily maintained and adapted to rapidly changing business needs and retargeted to new deployment environments."

Due to ship by the end of summer 1997, Vision Jade should cost ,995.

Unify chooses Informix for Vision/Web products

Unify has chosen to support Informix's Universal Server in the next release of its Vision and Vision/Web products. This integrated set of Java-based object-oriented tools and services can be used to develop, deploy, and manage transaction-based Internet applications. The products support Windows 95 and NT, MacOS, OS2, AIX, Solaris, DEC-Alpha, and HP-UX. And the tools package offers native database connectivity to Oracle, Informix, Sybase, DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, and Unify DataServer.

The Unify products will incorporate support for Universal Server's object-oriented SQL3 extensions and its new Universal DataBlade capabilities. DataBlades are third-party, reusable software snap-in modules that extend the capabilities of the core database server. These snap-ins allow companies to tailor the server to suit the unique information-processing requirements of individual businesses.

IBM sells Hannaford Groceries 1,200 thin clients

Hannaford Bros. Co., a chain of 142 grocery stores in the Northeast, has ordered 1,200 of IBM's Network Stations to replace the X terminals and PCs at each of its stores. Hannaford CIO Bill Homa also plans to order several hundred more next year to replace 3270 terminals and PCs at the company's headquarters. Hannaford's current setup consists of about 10 X terminals and PCs per store that access an AIX-based RS/6000 system at each site. The RS/6000 servers connect to an IBM OS/390 Enterprise Server at company headquarters. The HQ terminals access the Enterprise Server directly.

"These systems will allow us to give everyone access to enterprise-wide information," said Homa. "For example, our pharmacists have not had access to corporate e-mail with the X terminals. They would have to go to a PC sitting on a desk somewhere, but they can't leave the pharmacy unmanned." He also noted that the company chose the IBM devices because of IBM's support of the Lotus Notes system (which Hannaford was already using) and because he liked the look of IBM's Kona applets, due to hit the market sometime this summer. "The beta version is looking pretty good," said Homa. He describes Kona as a slimmed-down version of Lotus SmartSuite. In fact, IBM's early development and proposed deployment of Java-based client apps may mean it will be the first large vendor in that arena, and consequently may grab a large share of that market. "IBM will exert huge influence on the pace and direction of network computers and thin clients in the enterprise," said Greg Blatnik of Zona Research.

A notebook NC from Corel

Corel Computer Corp., a new subsidiary of Corel, is still working on a design for an NC notebook, which it plans to deliver by November 1997. The notebook should cost about ,500. It will come with a hard disk drive so customers can use the machine while it's not hooked to the network. And when it's reconnected, it will automatically synchronize the data on its hard drive with that on the network, spokesperson Carrie Bendsza said.

The Digital/ARM StrongARM processor will power the notebook. It will, of course, rely heavily on Java, but it will support Windows also.

Watch the company's site for upcoming information.

Open Group watches network computers

Sun, Oracle, Netscape, IBM, and Apple asked The Open Group to refine and develop a standard network computer reference profile to combat the proliferation of NC definitions as the NC market takes off. As it is, the NC market is moving in several directions at once, allowing the Wintel giant to capture the NC concept, according to analyst Rob Enderle at the Giga Information Group.

"Remember, Unix had a great deal of promise, but [standardization] didn't work," said Enderle. "Unlike the NetPC, the NC world has a bunch of guys competing with each other trying to come together for a standard. They need someone like Microsoft and Intel to hold it all together."

So The Open Group will help standardize the NC by testing potential NC devices for compliance with the profile and awarding them an official logo. The Open Group hopes to be branding NCs by the third quarter of this year. "The end goal is to make sure that all NCs conform to a certain set of standards," said Allan Brown, The Open Group's COO.

NCD adds smart card technology to Explora/HMX NCs

Feedback from clients in Europe has prompted Network Computing Devices (NCD) to add smart card connectivity to its Explora and HMX network computers. Plus, the company has been listening to a report from Dataquest that projects the demand for smart card units to grow to 1.2 billion by 2001. Card readers from Gemplus and Schlumberger can be attached to the NC serial ports, allowing the device to read and transfer data encoded on smart cards through WinCenter NT server software.

"With the emergence of requirements like remote computing and electronic commerce and the importance of accurate data for healthcare purposes, smart card access to applications is becoming critical," said Doug Klein, NCD's CTO.

Customers could view the technology in action at Spring Comdex.

Oracle snaps up Navio

For 0 million, Oracle's NCI bought Netscape's Navio Communications Inc. Navio makes a scaled-down, NC-capable version of Navigator. NCI's immediate plans are to integrate the Navio browser with its NC Desktop software, which includes a desktop operating system, a Java virtual machine, a multimedia Video User Interface, and a range of standard user tools, such as e-mail, personal calendar and address book, text editor, file manager, and news feed ticker.

According to Oracle officials, NCI will continue to create NC-based software while Navio will concentrate on software for the consumer market, focusing on Web navigational software for TV and set-tops. Navio President Wei Yen said his company has started shipping software development kits to OEMs.

Netiva: Corporate intranets get DB app

Netiva Software is offering Netiva, a Web database application that allows developers to create database applications for Internet and intranets. "Yesterday's database applications were not designed for the Web," said Steven Pollock, marketing VP at Netiva, "so creating data-centric Web applications required cobbling together complex Web technologies."

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