[QQ]Q: I gather we shouldn't regard Marimba as being a Push technologyfornia start-up dedicated to developing ways of deploying applications across the Internet. She told Ian Stobie of her vision for the Internet, extranets and Castanet. company.[QQ] A: Right, that's good! The reason why we don't describe ourselves that way is that Push is often associated with just content delivery - sports scores, weather maps and so on. Whereas what we do is deliver and manage full applications, the software as well as the content.[QQ] It's about more than just getting the bits from point A to point B. It's managing access to those bits, managing security along the way, monitoring how a person is using the application and customising it. When you add all that up, it's much more than content push.[QQ] Q: So your customers are the banks or the car companies or whatever.[QQ] But why should people engaged in non-Internet and non-software-development businesses be dealing with a software tools company, which I think it is fair to say Marimba is? Why should they want to do that. Isn't it rather complicated?[QQ] A: It's not complicated. Any company that has the technical staff or expertise to build a software application is a potential customer of ours.[QQ] There are many, many organisations which have large IT budgets that understand the need to reduce the cost and complexity of delivering, updating and managing software. And they also want to get into this new area of extranet applications. So our market is sufficiently large that we don't have to target companies that don't understand technology or the need for it.[QQ] But what will happen is that, over time, solutions for specific vertical markets will be built for the others. Peoplesoft is a customer of ours.[QQ] Companies like Peoplesoft, and there are others - Trilogy in supply chain management, for example - will start building solutions based on Castanet.[QQ] Q: Could your Castanet family of products be used for an application that had nothing at all to do with the Internet?[QQ] A: Yes. In fact, the IT organisation of Hitachi in the US is an example of a company using Castanet for a straightforward Intranet application - one inside the firewall. It's for salespeople who have to quickly tell their customers which parts are available or when they will become available.[QQ] Previously Hitachi had to use physical media to distribute the data, and that was difficult to support for multiple platforms and required complex version management. With Castanet, everybody can receive exactly the same version at the same time.[QQ] Q: What languages can such software be written in?[QQ] A: It doesn't have to be Java. It could be C or C++, Visual Basic, Active X, Cobol - anything.[QQ] Q: Now if we move back to Internet and Extranet applications, let's just get clear what's going on when you send information to different users across the Net. You have a Castanet transmitter which is sending the software and perhaps content through the firewall to users' desktops. How does the security side of that work?[QQ] A: There are different levels of security in Castanet. If you are delivering applications written in Java, those applications will not be allowed to do anything nasty, like access files on your hard disk. But once you start building in C or C++ or other non-Java languages, you have to add encryption and authentication capabilities. This is to sign the code that goes across the Net to assure the recipient that it comes from the trusted source, and also to encrypt that code so it can't be tampered with during transport.[QQ] We've also added authentication to the client side - this gives the developer the flexibility to allow certain applications to access data on the hard disk in a safe way.[QQ] Q: Let's take an example. Say you had a large number of insurance brokers and the company with the tuner was an insurance company sending them the latest details. Is that the type of extranet one's thinking of?[QQ] A: Yes, that's a prototypical example. In fact Aetna, one of the largest insurance companies in the US, has spun off a company called Bentana to do exactly what you're talking about. It is delivering financial planning information for health care enrolment, initially to human resources managers in large corporations, and ultimately to consumers in their homes. The reason this is such a compelling application is that it could ultimately involve millions of end users.[QQ] Castanet provides that scaleability. Secondly once you start going outside the firewall, you can't predict what device that person is running, or what other applications are running on it. So you need to be able to get the application - the insurance application in this case - there and updated without regard to what else is happening on that machine. Thirdly, employees are not necessarily in the office at the time the new insurance rate schedule, or whatever, goes out. So lots of times people will be disconnected, so you have to cope with that.[QQ] Plus, you want to customise and personalise this kind of application.[QQ] For instance, Aetna may have different enrolment packages for the employees at Coke and Pepsi, so they need to send out different versions of data to each company and update it in different ways. But that's a typical extranet application.[QQ] Q: Where's the big growth market?[QQ] A: In the near term, the biggest growth will happen in the enterprise and business-to-business. That's where the ready dollars are because that's where the pain is already felt today - I'm talking about the expense and complexity of delivering and updating software. It's a problem that's well understood and a solution is very welcome, so that will be the initial wave. However, in the future I don't think we'll be drawing this hard line between what's for the enterprise and what's for the consumer. I see the line blurring. If you take the Aetna example, it starts as very much a corporate, enterprise thing, but ultimately they need to reach out and connect with consumers in their homes.[QQ] Q: Do most corporates use your client[QQ] software - your tuner, as it is - or do they customise it?[QQ] A: There's a desire to customise the user experience. Most companies want the tuner to only tune into their own specific company's application.[QQ] They want it to be the insurance tuner or the sales automation tuner, or whatever, not the generic Castanet tuner.[QQ] Q: So how big is your niche? What's the potential size of the market?[QQ] A: It's an exploding market. This is because it is connected to such a fundamental evolution of the Internet. And that is the Internet is becoming the platform for delivering full-blown services - not just putting up a Web page.[QQ] There is such a range of industries that desire the ability to deliver services - banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, entertainment, news - you name it. People want to deliver a customised service which hides the technology. So it's a big market - and it's expanding rapidly.[QQ] Q: Now what happens if, say, Microsoft wants to add these kind of tools itself to its own product line?[QQ] A: We don't consider Microsoft to be a competitor. But, to answer the question, what if a big competitor starts shipping a product that seems like ours? We will always be able to stay ahead of the curve, I believe, because we understand this space so thoroughly. We do one thing, we do it really well - which is application management over the Internet.[QQ] Q: What's your relationship with Oracle? (Oracle president Ray Lane has just joined Marimba's Board of Directors.)[QQ] A: We have a relationship vis a vis integration of the Oracle database with the back end of the Castanet transmitter. So that if a channel updates itself and needs a piece of data from a database, that connection can happen seamlessly. We are working with Oracle on developing this further.[QQ] In the future we may bundle database access, or generic ODBC-type drivers to access a range of databases. But what we are focusing on right now is corporate customers who have already bought Oracle databases or Sybase databases, and the link between Castanet and those databases.[QQ] We have also developed a very extensible architecture for the transmitter on the server side, specifically so third parties can plug in - whether that's an Oracle database, or Cybercash's billing and payment, protocal,?? or Starpoint personalisation and filtering.[QQ] Q: Your customers at the moment are companies that have large internal IT departments. There seems to be a movement away from that - many companies might like to outsource a lot of these people and have all this complexity run by a specialist company. Does that affect you?[QQ] A: We talk a lot about that, the outsourcing of applications and the evolution of IT organisations. We think that's a big growth area for us, because it means they'll be a new category of service provider which does all this.[QQ] And in many cases those service providers will run an application inside the customer organisation remotely. The organisation itself then doesn't have to deal with it - it's like a black box. But that will require a way of getting the software and the content in place, so we think it's a huge opportunity.[QQ] Q: Do you feel that the use of such outsourced, hosted applications is going to become more commonplace?[QQ] A: Oh yes, absolutely. It's because the technology is here now - in the form of the Internet and Internet protocols, Castanet and other technologies that will be playing a part. And furthermore, it's because of the competitive threats companies face. They can't afford to divert their attention on building a huge IT infrastructure and being up to speed on all the newest, latest technical innovations. They have to focus on their core competency.[QQ] So, yes, it seems like an inevitable progression to me.[QQ] KIM POLESE FACTFILE[QQ] AGE: 36[QQ] JOB:[QQ] President and chief executive officer of Marimba, a Palo Alto-based software company which specialises in tools to manage and distribute applications across the Internet.[QQ] EDUCATION:[QQ] Polese holds a BS in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley; she also studied computer science at the University of Washington, Seattle.[QQ] CAREER:[QQ] Product manager for Java at Sun Microsystems. Polese joined Sun in 1989 after working as an application engineer for another company nearby. At Sun she started out as product manager for C++, and in 1993 moved on to the Java project, then still known as Oak. Polese shepherded Java through its triumphant launch and infancy (it was publicly unleashed on the world in May 1995).[QQ] Polese left Sun in February 1996 to found Marimba together with three other key members of Sun's original Java development team. Marimba focuses on developing software tools that exploit the new possibilities opened up by the Internet. Its main family of products is Castanet, which lets you automate the distribution and updating of applications both within company networks and across the Internet.[QQ] Castanet was initially lumped in by commentators with other 'push' products such as Pointcast. But you can use Castanet to distribute not only Web pages, but software and other types of data too. Castanet consists of both client-side software, known in Marimba jargon as the Tuner, and server software, called Transmitters. More details on www.marimba.com. Prices for the server software start at #795.[QQ] Castanet is available in the UK through specialist resellers, such as Nettgain Solutions on 0161 226 9906, www.nettgain.com.
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