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KnowNow unveils 'n-way' EAI over the Internet

KnowNow is a startup that has already changed its stripes in the brief time it has been on the IT scene.

Startup KnowNow has gone through quite a transition prior to its official launch, and the company we know now is not the same it was just a few months ago.

Once a firm hiring the brightest and best to build peer-to-peer applications over what co-founder Rohit Khare called the "two-way Web," KnowNow, which has just launched its event-based notification system for the Internet, now sees itself as a supplier of "application internetworking infrastructure." In doing so, it is entering the hot space of EAI over the Internet, populated by the likes of Kenamea and, to a lesser extent, Bang Networks. KnowNow, however, was first to articulate the model and sees itself as sufficiently different from the others.

The main catalyst for change was the May 7 arrival as president and CEO of Bill Barhydt, who founded Meteor Communications (previously WebSentric) and previously did stints at Netscape and Goldman Sachs, together with a sales and marketing team led by people from WebMethods and Active Software. Barhydt saw that the long-term opportunity was in infrastructure, not the applications themselves. He somewhat grandly terms KnowNow as "application integration transcending space and time -- across any network or any application." But what exactly does that mean and what does it do?

KnowNow looks and sounds like the Tibco Information Bus (TIB) over HTTP, but Barhydt, Khare and the others say it is much more than that. Nevertheless, it's hard to resist TIB as a useful point of reference, even for the KnowNow folks. Barhydt said TIB works very well in a LAN or WAN environment, but not over the Internet, despite Tibco trying to sell it as such.

At the core is software called an event router, which runs on Solaris and Windows 2000 and sits next to the second tier of the application architecture -- that is, next to the application server or whatever is immediately in front of applications like SAP. The router talks to what KnowNow calls microservers on the clients, microservers being the interconnection points within applications that enable them to talk to the event routers.

KnowNow has written microservers for JavaScript, C/C++, Visual Basic, ActiveX, Java and others so that they can be dropped into almost any type of application, said Khare.

What KnowNow's platform does is provide a publish-and-subscribe system for "n-way" -- or multiple, as opposed to two-way -- connections over the Internet. Its uses are many, the company believes, but are perhaps best illustrated by referring to Web services.

Khare said it is all very well exposing applications as Web services, but applications and users need to be able to subscribe to them to use them. Slapping them on a Web site, such as with a UDDI registry hosted on Microsoft's servers, is clearly not the optimal way of advertising Web services on the Net. But, said Khare, publish and subscribe is. Applications could subscribe to certain types of Web services and find them on the Internet.

KnowNow sees a significant OEM opportunity for vendors to build microservers into their applications. However, it also plans to sell to enterprises, in particular in the financial services market, where a lot of application development is done in-house and there are clear requirements for such real-time data integration. Other early verticals include energy and telecommunications.

Although there are no named customers yet, Barhydt said many of them are well into their development projects. Application vendors, he said, will be able to "get the functionality back" that they "sacrificed" in the move from client/server to Internet computing, through richer interfaces than are currently available on most Web-based applications.

Barhydt believes Kenamea, although close to the model, is "not HTTP by default" and requires an installation in the browser. He may be splitting hairs, but although Kenamea hasn't launched yet, from what the451 has seen it is an ActiveX control within the browser. Band Networks is doing a "next-generation Akamai," said Barhydt, and thus is not real competition. He views EAI companies as OEM opportunities, rather than competition.

The management team has been filled out with people experienced in data integration and data transmission over the Internet. Vice president of sales Jim Diamond is from WebMethods, Active Software and NeXt; vice president of marketing and business development Chet Kapoor also comes from WebMethods and Active; and vice president of engineering Satish Ramakrishnan was responsible for a lot of the original engineering at PointCast.

KnowNow raised $8.5 million from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Palomar Ventures. It has 40 employees.

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