While every business seems to be opening a Web site these days, few UK corporates have tumbled that their Web pages are anything other than a standalone shop window for their goods and services.
Resellers, meanwhile, would do well to note that the Web can offer an organisation a low-cost method of interfacing the company Lan resources with the Internet on a two-way basis. Provided a firewall or similar security system is in place, there is no reason why a Web site cannot be fully integrated with a Lan, offering a two-way flow of information and controlled access to resources.
UB Networks has approached the Web with this in mind. At the Networld & Interop show in London last month, the networking giant took the wraps off the industry's first real-time, Web-based network management system for intranets. Net [email protected] is billed as reflecting the importance UB is attaching to the role of Java in the networking environment.
According to UB Networks, Net [email protected] is 'a comprehensive framework and suite of applications designed to manage enterprise networks from a Web browser'. The company says the new package will make intranet management 'as intuitive as surfing the Net', with a familiar Web browser graphical user interface, applications for real-time management of the network, as well as active network trend monitoring, planning and analysis.
Steve Brigden, UB Networks product marketing manager, says Net [email protected] goes beyond the static HTML pages offered by other vendors. 'The Java applets will reflect changes in the network status as they occur, without requiring the user to reload Web pages. In addition, Net [email protected] provides built-in security mechanisms through Java and Em power, which is ideal for effective intranet management.'
UB Networks has already piloted Net [email protected] at Yorkshire Building Society, which runs several mission-critical applications on the Lan.
Using the package, network managers can run their network from a Web page, eliminating the need for network management staff to be on-site at all times.
According to Brigden, UB's strategy is to embed a high degree of intelligence into network devices that detect and correct problems in the network without human intervention. This approach, he claims, allows the network administrator to specify policies regarding what the network should do when a problem occurs. When the administrator does get involved the tools should be as familiar as browsing the Web.
Further details of the Net [email protected] range of software, which will be shipping by the end of this year, can be found on UB Networks' Web pages at www.ub.com.
Of course, extending the Lan reliably into a Web site usually entails plugging a Web server into the Lan on an on-site basis. But not for much longer, as Electric Mail, the online services and email firm, has just announced plans to create Siena, which it claims will be the UK's first intranet service provider (INSP).
According to Electric Mail, Siena will offer secure, high-bandwidth Internet communications, aiming to service the national and international Wan needs of organisations wanting to use the Internet as a low-cost communications medium.
Electric Mail sales and marketing director John Stewart claims that high-performance, cost-effective and secure communications between geographically dispersed sites is the panacea of all corporations. He says Wans supported by expensive, long-distance dial-up connections and inflexible telecoms services are starting to give way to 'Internet standard solutions'.
Siena will offer companies a dial-up modem and ISDN links into the Siena INSP network. Unlike conventional Internet service provider (ISP) ports, the INSP ports will offer secure communications links through a high-speed communications backbone in the UK.
What's interesting about Siena is that the national network will bypass the existing Internet infrastructure in the UK. According to Electric Mail, Siena will take the advantages of Internet technology - fast, industry standard, cost-effective data transfer of mixed media - without the downsides of using the public Internet: poor security and unreliable performance.
Electric Mail claims the Siena service will deliver an elegant and secure, high-performance network that is 'sensibly costed and easily scalable'.
It will use facilities such as name and password validation, anti-spoofing, user authentication, authorisation and destination filtering to maintain a high level of security on its service. Data packets sent over the Siena service will be checked at the corporate firewall stage before the remote user is allowed to pick up email, browse the company's internal Web server or access a corporate database.
'Siena will be the ultimate security solution,' says Stewart. 'Public Internet traffic will be segregated from Siena, and state-of-the-art Electric Mail intranet servers will provide an unprecedented multi-layer firewall that uses the latest security technology.'
Siena will also integrate with the corporate firewall. Stewart says: 'There will be multiple heavy-duty levels of security that will control, monitor and log all online activities.'
Another company exploring the new frontier of linking a company Lan directly into the Web is Netmanage. Earlier this month, Daniel Putterman, founder of Maxinfo, the company acquired by Netmanage earlier this year, was in London to talk about Netmanage's Intrachange software, which will ship in Q1 of 1997.
According to Putterman, Intrachange is the industry's first enterprise-wide Web management system that creates a truly distributed and collaborative environment system to use as a means of creating multiple Web sites in organisations.
'Intrachange sets the standard for the next-generation technologies that will turn the Web into the ultimate information dissemination and collaboration platform,' Putterman says. He adds that by using Intrachange, team members with diverse skills can efficiently work together to 'eliminate information bottlenecks across an entire organisation'.
Intrachange will be sold on a licensing basis similar to the way that Novell Netware and Intra-netware are sold. 'This will mean that the package becomes viable for even the smallest business user,' Putterman says.
Intrachange provides a suite of services for users, including a views-based content management facility; Web-centric versioning, archiving and reporting; cross platform, multiserver publishing systems; distributed administration and hierarchical security; transparent tools integration; and a rich programming environment.
Backing up Intrachange is a Web warehouse. This allows an organisation to store all the original documents and applications that are ultimately published on live Web sites. The warehouse is connected to the live Web sites (and the company Lan) using an SQL database server system, as seen on Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase software.
To make content and applications in the warehouse live on the Web, Intrachange will support local and remote publishing. The package is billed as communicating with target Web servers using Intrachange remote client access services - a server-side application that runs on all Web servers. With this approach, the company claims, content and applications can be published to multiple Web servers running on any platform.
Putterman says Intrachange will be priced very competitively , even against the less feature rich competition. Net-manage's Web site can be found at www.netmanage.com.
Intelligent Environments, meanwhile, a London-based software development company, has unveiled Amazon, an advanced Internet/intranet development package suitable for the 'next generation of Web applications'.
According to Mike Warriner, a representative for the company, Amazon is unique in allowing Web applications to be built that access and interact with company data held on mainframe computers.
'Such data is usually held on older legacy systems that cannot normally be interrogated using the Internet applications. Amazon gets round this by allowing SQL access to these databases,' Warriner says.
Amazon's key feature is intelligent 'load balancing' that distributes Web browser requests across multiple applications servers. It is also billed as having a high-performance mainframe connectivity facility that uses static SQL to IBM's mainframe DB2 database, as well providing support for the CICS transaction processing system.
'Amazon also has direct API access for two major Web servers: the Microsoft Information Server and the Netscape Commerce Server,' Warriner says.
He adds that the package is 10 times faster than the common gateway interface (CGI) that is used by most Web application servers.
Amazon is billed as working with standard browsers, Web servers and authoring tools. It is claimed to access and manipulate mainframe legacy data and dynamically create or update HTML pages. The package runs on a Windows NT 3.51, Unix, or OS/2 Warp server environment.
The price of a single-user version of Amazon has been set at #395, while a five-user version sells for #5,000. The five-user version includes a variety of extra features that the single-user version does not have, including direct API access to SQL databases.
Connecting up a Web server to the company Lan and using a firewall may be fine for a major organisations, but firewalls, as any reseller will confirm, do not come cheap. How can the dealer offer a Web server solution to the medium-sized customer without the client getting wallet fatigue?
The answer lies in supplying a sensibly priced but secure connection between the Internet and the company Lan - in short, creating a secure method of accessing the company Lan across the Web interface.
Wokingham-based Security Dynamics has just released a solution called Web ID. This Web browser add-in is designed to interface the company's Secur ID authentication module with remote users of a company network wanting to use the Web to securely access the company Lan.
Secur ID is a credit card sized token that uses a proprietary algorithm and a user-specific password to generate a unique numeric two-factor passcode that changes every 60 seconds. The company's Ace/Server system, meanwhile, sits on the company Lan server and generates a parallel passcode that also changes in time with the Secur ID token.
By interfacing the Ace/ Server software with the Web site, users can use their existing browser to access the Web site and link across to the Lan server. Then, when the Ace/Server software asks for authentication, they can key in the passcode from their Secur ID token and gain authenticated access to the Lan across the Net.
Web ID provides support for Windows NT 4 networks and will soon be fully integrated with Microsoft's Internet Information Service. The software supports all major Web browsers, including Microsoft Explorer, Netscape Navigator and Apache.
According to John Botting, Security Dynamics' UK general manager, the commercial business potential of the Internet has been limited, to date, by the inability to secure proprietary information on the Web.
'By providing secure, two-factor authentication to selected Web pages, the Web ID feature set enables companies to safely provide critical information over the Internet to authorised users, including suppliers, customers, or business partners,' he says.
'Current Web security offerings do not provide users with the reassurance that critical information such as financial information or product delivery schedules are protected from unauthorised access.'
Botting claims that Web ID protects selected Web pages by securing the page so that, after logging on to a home page, the person will not be able to gain access to any selectively secured pages on that site without a valid password and Secur ID token. 'Web ID is easy for users since they need authenticate only once per browsing session, allowing secure and convenient links to other protected Web pages,' he says.
Web ID is due to be launched by the end of this year, with pricing as an integral feature of the Ace/Server software. Further details can be found on Security Dynamics' Web site at www.securid.com.
Today saw 14 of the UK IT channel's biggest hitters come together to determine the winners of CRN's WiC awards. But what does being a WiC judge actually involve? Doug Woodburn reports
'Smaller firms may struggle to keep up with Microsoft's innovation with Dynamics' says CEO Stuart Fenton after acquiring assets from Profile Enterprise Solutions
Pete Peterson admits the firm hasn't always been the 'easiest company to do business with'
New chief exec Aaron Painter says 'longer-term strategy' could see firm tackle the Asian market