News & Analysis-1024242

Why makers of mobilized software are focused on "occasional" connectedness ... SAS 9's "Beyond BI" ambitions ...

April 2, 2004

9 Min Read

In this Issue:

  • In Brief

    Mobilized Software Needs New Mindset

    Think in Terms of "Occasional Connections"

    These days, it seems as if companies are just aching to go wireless. As more and more executives see the benefits of a workforce that has access to critical business information at any time and place, IT departments are increasingly being called upon to form and execute mobile and wireless initiatives. Indeed, IT spending on these initiatives is expected to grow to $83 billion by 2005, according to IDC — and that's just the beginning.

    Unfortunately, mobile initiatives don't always achieve a positive return. As with any new technology, the general lack of experience in the industry is bound to lead to pitfalls. The biggest pitfall may be the fact that the request-response architecture that has worked so well on the Web no longer holds up once employees take applications into the field where connectivity is intermittent at best. That's why Intel is sponsoring the Mobilized Software Initiative, a collaboration between the computing and communications industries aimed at providing companies with roadmaps and resources for building enterprise-quality mobile applications.

    The primary mantra of Intel's initiative is that IT departments must plan their mobile applications in a way that allows them to continue functioning despite wireless connections that drop off or even switch between carriers from time to time. "We're now in a world where we're not necessarily connecting to one network and staying connected while we use an application," says Chris Thomas, chief e-strategist at Intel. "When you leave Starbucks and go to a Hilton, you've switched service providers — and your application can't handle that without making you log out and log back in again."

    As a solution, Thomas recommends that companies trend away from deploying applications that require a network connection to function. Instead, he says, applications should be able to store data on the local device until a network connection reappears, at which time that data can be synchronized in the background with the central data store. "It's not that hard to do, but it's a change in thinking," says Thomas. "You're moving to an event model or a push model rather than a request-response model."

    A handful of organizations are already benefiting from this change in attitude. For instance, PeerDirect, a unit of Progress Software, says it is currently providing its bidirectional database replication tools to the healthcare, manufacturing, government, and finance industries. In the manufacturing case, mechanics in the field use applications embedded with PeerDirect's synchronization capabilities to view and record critical information about repairs to machinery that may be located beyond the range of a wireless signal. As for the government scenario, PeerDirect representatives say that the military is currently deploying mobile applications to field hospitals where access to healthcare records is important even if a sandstorm or enemy activity cuts off connectivity.

    PeerDirect CTO Britt Johnson points out that the "occasional connection" concept also works for software in less extreme situations — for instance, on airplanes. "The notion that you're not using all that computing power (on your laptop) except to listen to MP3s is ludicrous," says Johnson. "Companies that subscribe to the ASP model are now beginning to say, 'I like your app, but if it can't run standalone on an airplane, I won't buy it.'"

    Of course, synchronization isn't a novel concept. After all, PDA vendors such as palmOne have provided synchronization software with their devices for years. But as wireless and Web-based technologies have grown in popularity, so have developers' expectations of connectivity. It's these expectations that can lead to problems when creating mobilized software, says Intel's Thomas. "A lot of ISVs were trained on the Web generation, but you have to ask what happens when you cut the wire," says Thomas. "The attitude shouldn't be 'wow, I'm always connected,' but 'what am I connected to?'"

    Amit Asaravala was a freelance tech journalist when he filed this story. He is now a reporter with Wired.

    In this Issue:

  • In Brief

    SAS 9 Moves "Beyond BI"

    Catching Up On Usability; Widening Analytic Lead

    SAS has formally launched SAS 9, a modernization of the company's "analytic intelligence" platform, after two years of testing and early-adopter experience. SAS 9 features a multithreaded analysis engine for enhanced performance, new Java user interfaces for improved usability, and support for a host of application programming interfaces (APIs) to ease integration into enterprise computing environments. The company has simultaneously continued to roll out new packaged apps built on the SAS 8.2 platform, most recently and notably for Information Technology Service Level Management (IT SLM).

    The SAS 9 release is intended to provide a comprehensive analytic-computing platform for developers, SAS and third-party applications, and SAS industry-targeted verticals. While SAS is nominally competing with Business Objects, Hyperion Solutions, MicroStrategy, and other vendors with analytic engines, query and reporting tools, and extensive API support, the company claims to go "beyond BI" and these rivals in the analytic depth and the variety of packaged apps and industry-targeted solutions offered. Where these BI-centric rivals have recently added data mining algorithms to their product suites, SAS has long supported a wider variety of forecasting, modeling, and statistical-analysis tools and interfaces than any rival. While SAS has been playing catch-up on the usability front, recently adding new BI interfaces including dashboards and Excel spreadsheet integration, it has widened its analytic lead by implementing new algorithms for diverse applications including forecasting, survey analysis, text mining, and time-series analysis.

    The range of SAS analytics is available to application developers, through exploratory-analysis front ends such as Enterprise Guide, through the BI query and reporting interfaces if saved as stored procedures, and in SAS-packaged applications. According to Randy Guard, SAS director of solutions strategy, SAS aims to provide a "unified user experience" with "delegated decision-making" through a common infrastructure for data, metadata, and applications management and administration.

    SAS's IT SLM application is the latest addition to the company's suite of IT management offerings. The new module provides strategic performance reports that help ensure that IT service delivery meets contracted levels. While SAS 9.1 was first provided to early adopters outside SAS soon after the March 2003 unveiling, IT SLM still runs only on the earlier, 8.2 platform and doesn't yet take advantage of SAS 9's performance improvements and advanced ETL facilities. SAS product manager Richard Lillis stated in a March conversation that the IT management modules will be tested on SAS 9 over the following six months; the company hasn't committed to a delivery date for SAS 9 support.

    SAS director Guard stated that SAS developed its SAS 9 strategy 18 months to two years ago. Nonetheless, the company has chosen to deliver SAS 9 well in advance of the availability of its major application modules and verticals, which represent a significant proportion of the company's business, on that platform. Instead, SAS plans a phased applications rollout on SAS 9 to take place over the coming year.

    Other aspects of the SAS 9 release appear to be ahead of market demand, for example, support for the XML for Analysis (XMLA) Web-services interface, which is used neither by SAS client tools nor many third-party tools. SAS and Hyperion joined Microsoft as XMLA's primary sponsors; Microsoft long ago announced that XMLA would be the primary analytic-services interface in SQL Server 2005, formerly code-named Yukon, the long-delayed successor to Analysis Services. Despite the two-year delivery-date slippage and the deeper analytics, broader applications support, and degree platform-standards compliance provided by several analytics vendors including SAS, it appears that the rival vendors perceive Microsoft as setting the agenda for significant components of the analytics market, suggesting that these companies are continuing to struggle to articulate a compelling message centering on analytic power and integration that can counter the ease-of-use and cost advantages supposedly offered by the Microsoft computing platform.

    Contributing editor Seth Grimes writes and consults on database systems and business analytics.

    In this Issue:

  • In Brief

    In Brief

    Offer Undercuts SQL-Compliant Databases. PointBase, a division of DataMirror that sells Java data management and synchronization products for the embedded database and data mobility markets, announced a new competitive replacement program for enterprise database licenses. The EnterPoint License Program, available until July 31 2004, allows organizations to acquire an unlimited enterprise or departmental PointBase license for internal use and save on costly upgrade, maintenance, and new license fees from traditional database vendors. "Today, many CIOs and IT executives understand they don't need to pay the full cost of a traditional enterprise database for 30 to 45% of their internal applications," says Nigel Stokes, CEO, DataMirror.

    Intellisync Completes SSA Acquisition. Intellisync, a provider of synchronization and mobilization software formerly known as Pumatech, acquired Search Software America (SSA), a developer of solutions that enhance the ability to find, match, and group (synchronize) identity data within computer systems and network databases.

    Test Web Services. The Web Services Interoperability Organization ("WS-I") announced general availability of its testing tools for the assessment of Web services' interoperability with the WS-I Basic Profile. Final versions of the WS Communication Monitor and the WS Profile Analyzer are now available on the WS-I Web site at

    Pervasive to Release Integration Products. Following its 2003 acquisition of data integration company DataJunction, Pervasive, a top provider of databases for the SME and embedded markets, will soon announce new data integration products. A company spokesperson said Pervasive's integration solutions will scale from e-business, business intelligence, and EAI to essential ETL legacy data integration.

    "Perfect" Data Services Experience. Openwave Systems says its slew of new offerings enable operators to perfect their users' experience with differentiated services. Openwave products can help mobile operators integrate the user's experience across multiple services, devices, and platforms; enhance the experience with content management and messaging services; and protect subscribers from mobile spam and other unwanted content.

    IT Budgets Push the Edge. "Edge of the enterprise" IT spending is the largest and fastest growing portion of the enterprise IT budget, representing 34% of 2004 allocations, according to a recent Yankee Group report. Edge technologies are those that improve the flow of information and goods through the supply chain. (See graph.)

    Predictive Analysis Takes Off. Forrester Research reports that 46% of companies surveyed from numerous industries say they have predictive analytic applications in production. In the report, "Making Predictive Analytics Pay Off," Forrester also identifies best practices that "go beyond using a scientific methodology in designing and deploying the predictive model."

    Cognos Acquires Enterprise Planning Assets. Cognos has acquired the assets of privately held Business Planning Solutions Ltd. relating to its distribution of Cognos Enterprise Planning (EP) solutions in Asia. Cognos says that it strengthens its corporate performance management and EP leadership and sales channels in Asia with this acquisition.

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