A Toronto-based company on Wednesday released the beta version of a developer tool designed to build portable databases to help business users access remote information.
The tool, Digital Stick, was created because information is often difficult to retrieve instantaneously from corporate databases, which can also be information intensive, said Nirav Mehta, vice-president with IT software and services provider Telecompute Integrated Systems Inc.
"That's what's been lacking in the market," said Mehta of the developer tool. Besides enterprise developers, the company is also targeting developers of consumer products.
The portable databases are system-independent so users can access data from anywhere, and the technology provides a "self-contained" environment where applications run and store data, therefore leaving no data trails on the host operating system.
The technology is powered by Digital Anchor, a database engine allowing access to data through a completely integrated environment using standard language like Structured Query Language and Extensible Markup Language.
Developers can use the tool to build new portable databases or make existing databases portable, said Mehta. But because Digital Anchor is a "small database engine", he admits the technology won't make large Oracle databases, for instance, portable -- it can, however, work alongside them to extract key data required for portability.
To resolve this issue, he suggested choosing select data, like required fields, to which portable applications can connect through Digital Stick.
Given that the database engine uses standard languages, Mehta said, data can be easily integrated with other databases within the business, with the sole exception being large proprietary databases that might not allow data to be exported. "It's very easy to take the data in and out."
But the perceived risks around loss or theft of portable devices should not be an inhibitor to adoption of the tool, he said, because "security is built at the heart of the engine." In the event that the portable database falls into the hands of a hacker, drive and application access are protected by "various encryption levels," he said.
Also, there's a specific storage area housing the data and applications that is only recognized by Telecompute's systems, said Mehta. "The average person who finds your drive won't even know that there's the data in there."
A USB key, for instance, can be prepared and synchronized with corporate data via the Internet in but a moment, he said. "If you lose it, you're back in business in 15 minutes. That's important to businesses out there," he said.
Mehta acknowledged the fear that enterprises have around increased risks associated with portable devices, but still anticipates good enterprise adoption given the built-in security measures.
The research and development team of Saskatoon-based interactive design agency StikiMedia Creative Services thinks Digital Stick technology can help it build portable products alongside existing offerings. "Synchronization between Web applications and Digital Stick portable applications allows for exceptional product development in a number of fields allowing us to meet the evolving needs of our clients," said the company's creative director, Igor Terzic.
The development tool addresses the need for non-Web-dependent tools that connect to clients' e-commerce sites, said Terzic. And, he said, the built-in security features are a requirement for securing the sort of information typically housed in e-commerce databases.
One Telecompute customer, Markham, Ont.-based IT services provider Xcela Enterprise Solutions Inc., uses the engine Digital Anchor as the back-end database for its human resources system, said the company president, Sarosh Bharucha. In his experience, he said, the engine makes a good platform for portable databases because of the quick access to the HR system with minimal resources.
"Now with the new security features that have been built into the latest releases, all the requirements for portable applications are built in right at the core of the database," said Bharucha.
The security features, he said, complements the stringent enterprise requirements around maintaining the privacy of internal and external data.
Bharucha said although Xcela Enterprise intends to eventually implement Digital Stick technology into its HR system, he can't yet specify in what capacity.
Telecompute is building a developer community around Digital Stick with the current global count at around 100. Projects being built include CRMs, inventory applications, portable medical records and managed photo albums.
Following the beta, the full version will be released this spring in Canada. It will also be available globally on the Web with language modules that allow translation of the product, said Mehta.