Although the pace of the Web 2.0 Expo definitely downshifted a gear on Wednesday, I still found several key developments that will interest IT professionals. The most significant news was that Google's Matthew Glotzbach said that Google Enterprise is the company's second largest revenue generator, after advertising. That means that a lot of you out there have bought Google Minis or the Google Apps Premier Edition.
Here are three tools that I encountered on Wednesday that IT pros should know about:
One of the biggest challenges to using Microsoft Office in business is that when users want to share documents, they typically send them via e-mail. As a result, users will often save different versions of the file under different filenames, and various versions of the document will exist in different e-mails and inboxes. It all gets very difficult to manage and very dificult to sort out when you go back looking for the file. Of course, you can use SharePoint or save files to the network and only send links to the files, but both of those solutions have their limitations and usually pose difficulties for users.
That's where Egnyte comes in with a Web portal that gives users an online working folder to share their documents. Users can either upload documents individually or use a desktop plug-in. Once users share a document, then everyone who has access to the document can see the latest live version, as well as a version history tree for each time it was changed. The great part is that you can click through and open up the document at any of the stages in the version history and see what the file looked like at that point.
You can still e-mail documents from Egnyte, which also lets you view any messages associated with a document. Better yet (from Egnyte's standpoint), you can see any notes left by the user when changing the document. Based on the demo I got from Egnyte's Vineet Jain and and my own preliminary testing, Egnyte performs as promised. I don't see this product scaling very well in large organizations, but I think it is worth trying for small workgroups that do a lot of document sharing. It streamlines the sharing process and is useful for versioning, archiving, and searching. And it's not only for Microsoft Office files. It also works with OpenOffice, PDFs, and other files, and it can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Egnyte is planning to use a standard fee-based business model for this product. Vineet assured me that there are no plans for selling ads on the service. At the Web 2.0 Expo, Egnyte moved the product into public beta, and so the 1 GB version of Egnyte is available for anyone to try.
For anyone who loves planning networks with Visio -- and I count myself in that crowd -- I discovered a tool that takes it to a new level, while also providing a nice alternative to colo servers and managed services. 3Tera provides virtualized data centers that you can build on the fly in their Web-based tool that looks a lot like a Visio network diagram. While products like Xen and VMware virtualize the hardware layer, 3Tera virtualizes the networking layer and the storage layer. Some of the most powerful aspects of this product include being able to build redundancy and fault tolerance with virtual servers (so no hardware is being wasted in the process) and being able to quickly clone and multiply existing servers.
Keep in mind that 3Tera is primarily for Web servers and Web applications and that it is a virtualized Linux environment. You won't be moving your internal servers, such as Windows domain controllers and file servers, into this virtualized data center any time soon. But, for Web servers, it offers a more manageable solution than a colo, and it is much less expensive than managed services.
A company that is making a Web 2.0 data play is StrikeIron, which is taking some standard data libraries and delivering them to customers as customizable XML-based data streams. Examples of the kind of data that StrikeIron is serving include census data, sales tax rates, address correction and verification, and Dun & Bradstreet feeds.
StrikeIron is providing the platform in the middle to allow businesses to get raw access to all of this valuable data, and they charge for this service in packages -- a certain number of accesses per month or year, or simply a package of one large chunk of accesses. StrikeIron also has an Excel plug-in that allows users to plug the data services into Excel and get live updates. In the spirit of Web 2.0 acronyms, such as "Software as a Service" (SaaS), StrikeIron likes to refer to their overall product as "Data as a Service" (DaaS).