Netscape is planning in the next 12 months to add another offering to its SuiteSpot server suite to help plug a hole in Web server systems management. This seventh member of the server suite will include agent creation and management tools that will help track and administer applets running on Web clients or servers.
"We have a systems management server on the active drawing board, and you can expect to hear more about it in the next 12 months," says Srivats Sampath, vice-president of server marketing at Netscape.
Other modular upgrades for the next version of SuiteSpot, which is code-named Orion, are also scheduled for a staggered rollout during the next 12 months. The company's intranet white paper repeatedly refers to agents and agent management as critical future technologies for the entire SuiteSpot line.
Although Netscape officials won't discuss specific details of the applet-management-agent feature set, the agent technology will highlight the next SuiteSpot release. "Watch for a number of things in the 3.0 version of Enterprise Server," says Marc Andreessen, Netscape's chief technology officer. "There will be agent creation for all of the services so that information can be pushed instead of pulled."
This means one of the first places this agent technology will surface is in Netscape's email servers, which will make use of agents to automatically perform certain functions and route processes in workflow applications.
While touting object-based computing -- and the Java object-based programming language in particular -- Netscape officials say the move away from plug-in-heavy clients toward a distributed object model will not happen overnight. "We have to establish ourselves in the enterprise now," Andreessen says. "Plug-ins are the way we do that. When that changes, we'll be ready."
The use of agents to manage applets on the network could solve a number of problems, says Rob Enderle, an industry analyst for the Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, California. "With agents, you could restrict the type of applets you collect into some sort of repository of trusted applets," Enderle says.
Agents that provide centralised management of Java applets or plug-ins have yet to be deployed. One vendor pursuing this is Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., in Austin, Texas, which is also developing agents for managing Java applets.
PointCast, in Cupertino, California, which offers a news broadcasting service to client desktops over the Internet, has received criticism from some IS managers because of the burden its service places on LANs. PointCast will begin beta testing next month its I-Server product, designed to both cache PointCast's broadcast information and enable local corporate content.
Users need to install the PointCast Client 1.1, a free upgrade that will ship with I-Server. The client also uses data compression and lets users turn channels off to save bandwidth. The I-Server will run on Windows NT and cost US$995. It will be released in September.