The UK's Open University has begun using Marimba?s Castanet 'push' software to send notes via the Internet to students. The supplier claimed the deal proves it offers organisations more than just simple push facilities. "Castanet is a heck of a lot more than what people are calling push technology," said chief executive Kim Polese, speaking at the Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas yesterday.
The biggest virtual university in the world has posted course notes online, after students brought the server down by overloading it. It will continue to hold Web-based lectures but has had problems sending content to its students, according to Polese. "Until now the Open University has used the BBC and the Web but all the students were hitting the server at the same time," she said.
The large amount of graphics, tables and text in course notes means its transmission is suited to Castanet, according to Polese. "?The lectures are online but the course content is delivered to hard disks in advance and students keep the course notes over a semester."
Castanet uses a 250Kbytes software program at the client end and treats servers as ?transmitters?, sending only the updated sections of software and content to clients, rather than whole, replacement files. The software can work offline, is based on Java and uses very little precious bandwidth.
Polese announced the contract at Networld+Interop during a keynote speech, ?Internet Architecture in the Year 2000?. Polese claimed Marimba's applications are the future of Internet-based technology because they avoid download delays, browser incompatibility and high connection fees. But she took a pot shot at other push vendors, claiming they offer static and insecure tools that are unsuitable for large IT shops, under the fashionable 'push' label.
"Clearly browsers are not the solution for dynamic, remote, network-centric applications," she said. "Software and content are merging." She added that Marimba is not simply a push content vendor, calling competitors like Pointcast "dumb push". She said vendors that push information out from the Web to desktops are insufficient because their content is intrusive, hogs bandwidth, clogs client Ram, delivers the same content to all subscribers, is hard to delete and is vulnerable to viruses.
"Eventually spreadsheets and word processors will be available across the Net and you could pay per use or per feature, rather than put them on your hard disk," she said. "We do that with Corel Office now."
But Polese admitted that the transition from existing client/server systems to Marimba?s vision of network computing could prove expensive. "Our technology makes use of the client?s CPU and storage... but a lot of companies are building from blank sheets now, making investments in the Internet platform."
Polese was one of four former Sun Microsystems Java specialists, who founded Marimba in February 1996. The innovative firm has been tipped as a major player in the future of IT and has already signed deals with companies including IBM, Lotus, Netscape and Sybase.
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