Demo stuff for IT organizations

Note: Video presentations of the products mentioned below, as well as most other presentations from Demo, are available here. Blogger won’t accept the embedded videos and I don’t have time to mess with it.

As an event that brims with streaming video and eye-catching GUIs, Demo has never been the ideal venue for IT infrastructure companies. Startups that make servers perform better, for example, or that improve bandwidth utilization have an impossible task matching the slickness of their consumer-oriented neighbors.

Nevertheless, I saw some noteworthy innovations at Demo that should interest corporate computing departments.

Fusion-io – For sheer “Wow!” factor, Fusion-io’s ioMemory and ioDrive were hard to beat. The company claims to have squeezed the capacity and power of a storage area network onto a single PCI-Express card. The product it plans to release at the end of this year packs 640GB of non-volatile storage into a card that fits in the palm of your hand. It uses the same memory technology that’s embedded in Apple’s iPod Nano. Some people believe that breed of flash memory will eventually replace disk drives altogether.

The performance claims by this company are astounding. Fusion-io says it can improve storage performance by up to 100 times with better reliability because the product has no moving parts. At an estimated cost of around $20,000, the product will no doubt be the most costly expansion card ever produced, but Fusion-io says it will be far cheaper than the storage area networks it replaces.

CEO Rick White says a fully loaded SAN costs about $80 per gigabyte, while his product will come in at about $30 per gigabyte. That’s because there is no need for the racks, power supplies, controllers, air conditioning supply and floor space that conventional SANs need. Multiple cards can be placed in the same box and RAID-style striping can be employed for data integrity and redundancy.

The show guide said Fusion-io’s products “may prove to be among the most important products ever to launch a Demo.” If the company’s claims are true, that’s probably not an overstatement.

Solid ICE – This on-demand virtual environment from Qumranet combines the best features of virtualization and thin-client terminal services. Users can have multiple virtual machines running on their desktop, all hosted and served from the data center. IT organizations can fluidly scale of the power and resources provided to each user, and desktops can be customized and saved for access from any location. Users can even install software into their virtual machines, as if they were local computers.

Talari Networks – One of the few areas of IT infrastructure that has yet to succumb to Moore‘s Law is wide area network services. Enterprises continue to lease frame relay, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) and other pricey dedicated network services from carriers because they’re afraid to take chances on the public Internet.

Talari claims to have come up with a way to adapt routing patterns to variations in the network and achieve frame relay-like reliability at a fraction of the cost. It layers in some secure data delivery and packet engineering to achieve reliability of more than 99.95%. Talari says is can deliver between 30 and 100 times the bandwidth per dollar and eliminate the need for frame relay or MPLS services in many cases.

The company’s web site is still two pages deep, so it may be awhile before its claims can be verified.

Demo stuff that I'll use

Note: Video presentations of the products mentioned below, as well as most other presentations from Demo, are available here. Blogger won’t accept the embedded videos and I don’t have time to mess with it.

Here are some products and services I saw at Demo that I plan to try out for my own use:

GrasprThere used to be a great site called that showed how to perform life tasks ranging from making a soufflé to fixing a leaky pipe in simple words and pictures. I don’t know what became of it; the URL now points to a software retailer. Graspr gives the Learn2 concept a social media twist. Members can upload how-to videos and annotate each other’s creations, sharing tips or advice on how to do something better. Members can also vote on the most useful content. This is a good way to mine the wisdom of crowds while also enabling people to connect with others who have similar interests and expertise.

PropelThis is quality-of-service (QOS) for the PC. Developer Propel Software Corp. argues that when people are frustrated with Internet performance on the desktop, the culprit is often their own PC. A PC doesn’t distinguish between a file download and a VOIP session, for example, so bandwidth-critical applications may suffer because low-priority jobs are getting an equal share of the pipe.

QOS is a discipline that assigns priorities to applications so that some packets get priority on the network over others. It’s been implemented in corporate networks for years, but Propel’s utility brings the same concept to the desktop, allowing the user to define priorities for bandwidth demand. Propel also provides a simple dashboard to monitor traffic and make sure all is well. The product should be available by the end of the year. If it works, it’s a no-brainer that I’ll use it.

Diigo – I’m an active user of the social bookmarking service, but I’m frustrated by its limitations. A big one is that only provides a few characters with which to describe the pages I bookmark. I frequently run out of space trying to write a description.

Diigo is social bookmarking for serious researchers. Users of its toolbar can highlight and annotate passages on bookmarked Web pages. People can comment on each other’s bookmarked pages and highlights. Essentially, the service creates group discussion around Web content. Anyone with the Diigo toolbar can see other users’ annotations and sites that choose to implement the Diigo protocols can provide these capabilities even to non-Diigo users.

There are other innovatives features in this release, including a function that lets you create a PowerPoint-like slide show sequence using Web pages. I’m not sure I see much utility in that, but the highlighting feature alone could be enough to make me switch from

Yuuguu – screen sharing has been around since the early days of Microsoft NetMeeting, and is still a core feature of services like You can also download open-source screen sharing software like VNC. So the idea isn’t new, but Yuuguu has implemented it in an elegantly simple way.

Yuuguu WebShare users can share their screens with others on the fly by simply clicking on names in an AOL Instant Messenger-like buddy list. The shared screen comes up in a browser window and users can easily pass control of their screen to others, with everyone seeing the results. The company pairs the service with a global audio conferencing system. It’ll make money from that and give away the software client for free.

MyQuire – Another Web 1.0 idea that many find a new life with a social media twist is project management for consumers. In the early days of the Web, several Internet businesses launched services that let consumers collaborate on everyday group projects like organizing church socials and softball leagues. The services were limited by the technology of the time, particularly the reliance on e-mail for communication and limited file-sharing. MyQuire improves on the collaborative features of the early efforts and adds standard social media tools like photo and file-sharing. The company is in stealth mode for a couple of more months, but the demo version of its service looks interesting.

LongJump – As a small-business owner, my financial management processes are embarrassingly rudimentary. At some point, I probably should make the switch to Intuit’s QuickBooks, but LongJump would argue that it can deliver all that functionality and more for a low monthly fee. The initial service combines 14 common business applications and an integration platform that developers can use to add others. Monthly fees will start at around $25.

The integration platform is very similar to’s app exchange concept. While there’s nothing particularly new about LongJump’s business model, its aggressive pricing and impressive feature set could make it an attractive service for small business owners.

Cool stuff for marketers

Several services of interest to marketers are debuting here at Demo in San Diego.

The MuseStorm Content Engagement Platform is a service that simplifies the creation of widgets, those ubiquitous branded medallions that show up on blogs and social networking sites and deliver video, images and text streams. The founders claim that businesses typically spend $30,000 to create a widget (not an unrealistic figure, from what I’ve seen) and that they can reduce that process to a few minutes.

Drag and drop the content container and the relevant content into a workspace, add logos and messages/instructions and generate the final product without coding. MuseStorm provides components to e-mail a friend, download a brochure, request a follow-up, vote, comment, etc. and delivers final code that can be dropped into any html page. More importantly for marketers, the company has back-end tracking and reporting to tell marketers what’s resonating with the audience and what’s falling flat. Pricing is correlated to traffic.

UK-based Real Time Content Ltd. has one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” services. Adaptive Media Version 1.0 delivers targeted video to visitors based upon interests they specify. It’s a simple concept that must be devilishly difficult to implement.

Consider the range of videos that a car company might want to show a visitor. A 25-year-old single male might want to see the fastest sports car while a 35-year-old mom could prefer a demonstration of safety features. On most websites today, every viewer gets the same video, no matter what their interest.

Real Time Content stores a menu of videos, text messages, images and calls-to-action that can be dynamically assembled and delivered to visitors depending on information they provide. So that 35-year-old mom gets a video and text overlay talking about safety features along with an invitation to request a brochure while the single young male might get an invitation to sign up for a test drive. The company has reporting and analytics to show marketers what’s working.

Shoutlet is a tool for monitoring Web 2.0 campaigns. The service includes a platform for distributing content like video and RSS feeds to dozens of sites, a widget-building function, RSS feed creator and e-mail campaign manager. The reporting is supposed to be where to Shoutlet shines. The developer, Sway, is a marketing services agency specializing in social and viral media. It should know what kind of reports marketers want.

Sway intends to price under $10,000 a month, which would make it cheaper than the influence-tracking services offered by most of its competitors.

Best of Demo – Day One

Demo is one of the few conferences that I have consistently made an effort to cover over the years. There’s a cool factor associated with the myriad early beta and pre-beta products being shown here, but what’s more important is that Demo is a leading indicator of what’s going to be hot in the IT market in the coming year. It’s like getting a jump-start on the newest trends.

When I look back at my choices for the most interesting Demo technologies of 18 months ago, I’m struck by how few of those companies have achieved prominence. However, many of the concepts they were working on have succeeded in other forms. New platforms always create a flurry of innovation followed by a long cycle of consolidation and retrenchment. This phenomenon will play out in social media the way it happened in PCs, LANs, Internet 1.0 applications and other smaller markets in the past. That doesn’t mean this process isn’t important.

Among the interesting demos I saw today (and keep in mind that these are demos, which are only one stage removed from fairy dust):

LiveMocha – This product sits closest to the perfect intersection of cool and practical. If you’ve ever tried to learn a language by computer, you know that the process is slow and one-sided: the instructor talks and you listen or practice.

LiveMocha leverages community to make learning languages easier. Traditional courseware is wedded with feedback from native language speakers who help each other master the finer points of writing and speaking. Your feeble scribblings in Spanish can be critiqued by people who really speak the language. And a VOIP feature lets you connect in real time with native speakers while supporting you with translators and organizers. My wife tried this product this evening after I told her about it and said it really works. LiveMocha gets bonus points for that. Best of show to this point.

Baagz – I absolutely loved the demo of this service. I just hope it’s as good as the demo shows it to be. Baagz is a spinoff product of Exalead, a French search-engine company that specializes in semantic search. Semantic technology derives information about web pages that isn’t explicitly stated on those pages. A lot of people think it’s the next generation of search.

Baagz users can set up personal “bags” of information about whatever interests them. Say the topic is Paris. You create a Paris bag and then drag information from around the Internet into your Paris bag. Semantic search derives additional information about your collection of choices that makes your bag perform better on the site’s search engine. That makes it easier for others to find you based upon your interests.

Other people can access your bag and leave comments, add tags or integrate their own Web clips. Over time, you develop communities of people with like interests, and the semantic search helps hone your areas of focus. The demo of the bag space is very cool, although I suspect it requires a lot of processing power. The interface makes it a whole lot easier to collect interesting information than the snip/bookmark approach that’s commonly used today. This is a very cool concept for presenting an idea that’s intuitively useful.

CoComment – The Internet is awash in conversations, and keeping track of all the exchanges that interest you is daunting. CoComment lets you aggregate conversations from across public and even gated websites like Facebook and MySpace, so you can easily see who’s commenting, what they’re saying and when conversations are changing. This technology isn’t cool so much as it’s very practical.

YuuGuu – YuuGuu is AOL Instant Messenger for screen-sharing. If you thought there was already technology out there that let you quickly and easily share your PC screen with others, there really aren’t many. Sure, GoToMyPC and VNC have had screen-sharing for a long time, but few, if any services make it easy for large numbers of people to quickly and seamlessly share screens and manipulate each other’s applications without requiring a lot of setup and configuration.

Contact anyone on your buddy list and invite them to share your screen. The process is a few clicks.You can quickly and easily hand the baton off to others to control your screen, with everyone who’s signed on seeing the results. The product is free; the company plans to make money off of telephone conferencing services that complement it.

SceneCaster – We’ve all seen those cool 3D programs that show us what hotel rooms and restaurants look like. If you’ve ever wanted to create rooms of your own, there weren’t many options to do so. SceneCaster lets you create 3D environments and modify them with a minimum of setup and no programming. You can then share those designs with others and interactively edit and comment upon them.

I particularly like the company’s revenue model: businesses pay to have their products represented in 3D for you to drag and drop into your scenes. So if you’re designing an office, you can add chairs from Eurotech to your scene for free. The back-end would have a link to a commerce site where you could buy the sponsor’s chairs to fit the scene.

There’s a corporate play here, too. The company says it has several business customers who use the 3D authoring and rendering engine to create models of products to demonstrate to customers.

Radar – I wasn’t blown away by this demo when I first saw it, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. We interact with many websites these days, and we learn a different interface for each one. What if the content from those websites could be aggregated into a single interface? That’s essentially what Radar has done.

The company’s software player makes it possible to view content from literally hundreds of sources in a single viewer. Radar has cut deals with a lot of the top content sites to make their stuff available through its player. Users will be able to customize these master views by importing their own RSS feeds.

Once Radar has a critical mass of content being displayed through its reader, you can ima

gine a lot of ways to layer value on top of that, including recommendation engines, commenting, tags and other Web 2.0 features. It’s still early-stage technology but with a lot of promise.

That’s it for this (late) night. Descriptions of more cool products coming on Wednesday.