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Tech show spotlights business software

A number of small enterprise software companies plan to debut practical wares this week at the Demo conference in Arizona. Others take aim at security and utility computing.

A number of business software companies plan to debut practical wares this week at a conference dedicated to showcasing new technology.

Since the deflation of the Internet bubble, products on display at the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., have shifted away from radically new Web business plans to focus instead on pragmatic solutions and improvements to existing products.

Convoq, a start-up based in Lexington, Mass., plans to release at the show a product designed to combine the ad hoc communication methods of instant messaging with Web conferencing and collaboration. The company's product, called Convoq ASAP, allows a group of people to view their documents, speak and hold a video conference through a Web browser.

Unlike other Web conference systems, Convoq ASAP doesn't require people to download Web conferencing software; it uses Macromedia's Flash, which often is already installed on PCs, to display common information. The system links into existing instant messaging systems to show when people are available or to designate a backup for an individual.

Convoq is aiming the product at businesses seeking a relatively cheap method for internal company communications or for business-to-business scenarios, such as customer support and remote sales. The product and associated hosted service costs either $49.95 for five people per year or $99.95 for 25 people per year.

Another company that plans to show off its software at the conference is trying to ride the utility computing wave. mValent develops products based on the idea that businesses are spending too much time and money on making changes to all the moving pieces in corporate data centers. The company has designed a system that lets technical administrators capture the configurations of servers, storage devices and software in a single place and automate tasks associated with making changes. The goal of utility computing is to let companies use their computing resources more cost-effectively.


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mValent's software can share configuration information with software from companies such as Opsware or BladeLogic in order to install applications on different machines at scheduled intervals. Industry heavyweights, such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Veritas Software, have snapped up data center automation software companies to bolster their utility computing efforts.

"For the broader completion of the utility computing vision, we believe this will be a key part," said Swapnil Shah, CEO of mValent.

mValent's Active Configuration Management software, which has been sold to less than 10 clients so far, costs $50,000 for five users.

Security alert
Meanwhile, Forum Systems plans to release an XML (Extensible Markup Language) security firewall to prevent malicious attacks on corporate networks. The product, called XWall, is optimized specifically for applications that use XML messages to transport data and XML-based Web services protocols.

The company already sells a high-end security system, which costs around $50,000. XWall is aimed at smaller companies that need intrusion detection software but have less sophisticated applications and security demands than large corporations.


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XWall, which can be installed as software or purchased as a hardware device, inspects network traffic, such as Web services Description Language (WSDL) schema and XML messages, for potential problems. Prices range from $2,500 for the software edition to a $10,000 rack-mounted device with advanced features.

The company believes that there is a market for Web services-specific security because Web services pose even higher security risks than traditional Web and server applications.

"There is extreme danger in Web services?this WSDL file is a handbook to your database," said Wes Swenson, CEO of Forum Systems. "We think Web services is being taken way too lightly by the big security companies."