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NetManage Moves into Mobility

Few phenomena have changed enterprise computing quite like the recent explosive growth of wireless networks and the subsequent proliferation of mobile devices. Mobile networks now cover 80 percent of the world's population, according to analysts at Forrester Research, which means that more than five billion people are within range of a cellular network. Connected PDAs and a remarkably capable generation of smart phones have linked untethered workers to the company network like never before.

Shipments of so-called mobile terminals, a category that includes wireless PDAs, laptops, and “personal terminals” such as the Blackberry, hit the 660 million mark in 2004, according to analyst firm Gartner, a 27 percent bump over the previous year. Gartner expects that number to hit 848 million by 2008. Gartner also sees smartphones spreading at a compound annual rate of 28 percent through 2009--which is not surprising, given JupiterResearch’s finding that 62 percent of consumers prefer to carry a single device that adds additional features beyond telephony, even if those features add size and shorten battery life.

For once, the reality of an emerging technology seems to have outstripped the hype.

As more and more enterprises come to see these devices as viable terminals for accessing corporate data--and even essential facilitators of productivity for an increasingly mobile workforce--more and more enterprise software vendors are getting into the race to provide products to make it all happen.

The most recent entry is host-access and integration software provider NetManage. The Cupertino, CA-based company makes products designed to link PCs, thin-client terminals, mainframes, and Web-based applications. Its products are used to integrate information stored on a variety of legacy systems, enabling enterprise data to be accessed from desktops, cell phones, personal digital assistants, and wireless devices.

“Quite a number of our customers are starting to view mobile as something they simply have to come to grips with, purely because it’s beginning to run away by itself,” says Peter Harvart-Simkin, NetManage’s SVP of strategic development.

The company is today unveiling OnWeb Mobile, an extension of its OnWeb presentation and composite application product, designed to enable remote connectivity to existing corporate applications in real time.

OnWeb is a middleware environment in which different corporate information sources are combined with business processes from existing apps in new ways, creating what the company calls "composite applications." The result is a single app that presents all the information to end users.

OnWeb supports what the company calls "scaleable presentation" functionality, which allows companies to use the same application integration technology for everything, from mainframe terminals, Web publishing and Web integration to multiple types of mobile Internet applications.

“More than three-quarters of corporations now have PDAs in them,” says Harvart-Simkin, “and most of those were bought by individuals and not the corporation. Consequently, there’s a challenge here for the IT department to get their arms around the mobile that already exists in their organizations. What we’re trying to do with OnWeb Mobile is to help that process by making it much more straightforward to deliver mobile applications.”

NetManage's move into this market pits the company against such mobile middleware vendors as iAnywhere Solutions and Intellisync. The differentiator, says Havart-Simkin, is NetManage's expertise at providing back-end integration into legacy systems--expertise that was enhanced last October with the acquisition of application integration adapter company Librados. That acquisition added more than 100 bi-directional J2EE Connector architecture adapters and Microsoft BizTalk adapters.

What will probably get OnWeb Mobile noticed is its ability to combine data from diverse legacy sources. The company says it requires no change to the existing back-end systems, databases, or packaged applications. It operates with existing architectures, and supports IBM mainframes and iSeries applications and databases (IMS, DB2), UNIX applications, packaged systems (including SAP, Siebel, Oracle, Siebel, JD Edwards), and databases (including Oracle, IDMS, Sybase, Informix). It allows users to export EJBs, JavaBeans, .COM, and .NET Objects; Web Services; HTTP; BizTalk Schemas; HTML and WML.

“Basically, we see mobile as an extension of the existing IT infrastructure,” says Havart-Simkin. “As a result, we see it as a natural extension of NetManager’s composite application server play.”

Havart-Simkin says that NetManage's OnWeb Mobile offering will be able to run on any device that can support a Web browser. The company demoed the beta of OnWeb Mobile at the CeBit conference in Hanover, Germany, earlier this month.

More information is available at: www.netmanage.com.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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