Start-Ups

Sapho set to bring mobile push computing to enterprise apps

Enterprise software tools can be difficult to use and typically don't work well on mobile. Startup Sapho is turning enterprise apps into a mobile activity stream.

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Image: iStockphoto/gyn9038

Consider the number of enterprise software tools you are expected to log into and use on a daily basis. It can be a frustrating process that can disrupt your daily workflow.

If you're like me, you just end up emailing the person who knows that tool by heart and asking for help. The learning curve for many enterprise software tools is typically too high for average workers to easily engage with the service. On top of that, most tools are difficult to access on mobile devices.

"Enterprise software is increasingly developed for the person that signs the check and not everybody else," said Peter Yared, the CTO at Sapho.

This is why Yared, a former CTO at CBS Interactive (TechRepublic's parent company), founded Sapho along with his former CBS Interactive colleagues Fouad ElNaggar and Charles Christolini.

Sapho, which is currently in beta with three customers, connects to a company's business software tools and provides each user a tailored stream of glanceable updates from those apps, similar to what you would see in Google Now.

Sapho was also inspired by the question of "Why can't I see this on my phone?!" Mobile is the new frontier in the enterprise, and Sapho wants to capitalize on that. The key, Yared said, is that you can't put all the information on mobile device. It forces you to curate what you're presenting.

"Mobile phones are really the prisms that help people figure out what data should be presented," Yared said. "You can't put everything on there."

Consumerization will be key to the app's success. According to Yared, the experience for the end user needs to be on par with similar feed-oriented apps they are already using.

As users are presented with updates, they can engage each update to be taken to the parent software. Sapho also utilizes swiping capabilities, as users can swipe left if they don't like something or swipe right if they find it useful. Sapho will learn from those choices and it will affect what information that app presents in the future. That's where the functionality is now, but Yared said they are iterating it with beta customers.

Jeff Clavier, founder and managing partner of SoftTech VC, invested in Sapho because he is confident that push computing is what the enterprise needs. According to Clavier, when it comes to BYOD, "the war is over," making a tool like Sapho "a dire need in the market."

Clavier has known Yared and ElNaggar for quite some time. He said the reason that he invested in Sapho is the fact that the founders have taken a lot of this internal work they've done at CBS Interactive and applied it to other companies.

According to Clavier, the team started with the question: "How can we easily deploy those functionalities, those reports, those numbers, that content in a way that doesn't require having an entire internal development team to work for weeks or months to package these applications?"

Right now the company is solely targeting on-premise databases, making it easy to build forms, charts, etc. Yared said they are building easy point-and-click functionalities and adding notifications on top of that.

"The architecture is a Java WAR file, a web archive file," Yared said. "We drop this into an existing Java application server, a web application server. That would be IBM WebSphere, Oracle WebLogic, Apache Tomcat, Red Hat JBoss. Then it connects to existing databases, so Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft SQL Server. Then, the client is a native-wrapped HTML 5 browser running jQuery mobile."

The goal now is to get the software totally stable and predictable. Currently, Sapho supports IBM DB2, Oracle, PostgresSQL, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server. Yared mentioned that, surprisingly, they just had to add support for Microsoft SQL Server 2003 as well.

As far as the name Sapho goes, it refers to a special juice in Frank Herbert's Dune that is consumed by Mentats to increase their cognitive abilities. It was referenced by the character Piter De Vries in David Lynch's film adaptation when he said:

"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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