More power for mobiles

A manufacturer of remote server access products and a business intelligence software company have announced new applications to extend handheld devices from being mere carriers of e-mail.

Avocent Corp. has released two versions of SonicAdmin, software that lets BlackBerry and Windows Mobile 5 handheld users remotely control Windows servers, while Cognos Inc. said it is beta-testing an application that will let BlackBerry users access Cognos 8 BI-generated reports on their units.

SonicAdmin, available immediately, is Avocent’s latest attempt to give system administrators the ability to leave their desks yet still be able to respond to server problems including rebooting hardware or resetting passwords, said Kyle Peterson, Avocent’s marketing manager.

“You can see a typical situation where the system administrator might be in a queue at Starbucks getting his morning coffee, receives a call or e-mail saying there’s an urgent situation that he needs to respond to, and he’s able to do that right on the spot.

Two years ago Avocent entered this market by buying a company called Sonic Mobility that had an application with that capability. However, Kyle Peterson noted that for a number of reasons companies in this space have failed to make more than a sliver of sales.

“The new release is a completely re-written product using a component-based, web services architecture,” he said. “We’ve put a big emphasis on ease of installation, simplified maintenance and administration and usabilty. It’s really a next generation product not an early-adopter product as were the prior versions.”

More important, Avocent believes, is that it has changed the product’s pricing model from charging for each server controlled – which Peterson said led to data centre difficulties – to charging for each mobile user. The full-featured SonicAdmin Pro sells for US$399 per user a year. For a limited time there’s an introductory five-pack for US$1,495. SonicAdmin QR, which has limited system management capabilities, costs US$99 a user a year.

To whet user appetites, both are available for free 15-day trials.

Both versions will only be sold as an online download, either as a direct purchase or through channel partners, although Avocent hasn’t yet set up a backend for taking orders and crediting VARs. “Our first objective is to get it out to the people to try it, and then we’re going to roll out the channel strategy,” Peterson said.

SonicAdmin includes what Peterson said are standard routines that an administrator would use, including Exchange management.

Peterson hopes that the simpler install and new pricing gives it a chance of making SonicAdmin a “mainstream product.”

Ottawa-based Cognos said it wants to enable users to access business intelligence on handheld devices with the creation of Cognos 8 Go! Mobile, a rich client for BlackBerrys.

Viewing text files or PDFs on handheld devices isn’t satisfying for people used to dipping into figures behind charts or tables in reports created in Cognos 8, said Don Campbell, Cognos’ vice-president of platform strategy and technology. One problem is that tables can extend horizontally in a document, a problem for narrow handheld screens.

Cognos 8 Go! Mobile solves this by flipping charts and tables vertically, so they can be scrolled up and down.

Only reports created in Cognos 8BI will be able to take advantage of the mobile technology, Campbell said. Reports are compressed so they don’t take up much room on a BlackBerry, and can be encrypted. Reports can be sent to a subscriber or the user can search for a report in a Cognos 8 database. Reports appear in the BlackBerry’s inbox.

The only limit to the reports that can be created is the handheld’s memory, Campbell said, although animations, Flash and rich HTML should be avoided. However, he also made it clear that the reports on handhelds cannot be used for the drilling deeply into business intelligence information.

“It’s more of a reporting environment than an information exploration environment,” he said.

Pricing and licensing of the product hasn’t been set yet for the product, expected to be available in the first quarter of next year.

Campbell said Cognos intends to make Go! Mobile available for Windows Mobile and Symbian-based handhelds later next year.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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