Entrieva gives voice to net management

It's 3 a.m. and you get a telephone call that your company's network has gone down. Thanks to software from start-up Entrieva, you can diagnose and fix the network problem over the phone and then go back to sleep.

With software shipping for a year and several successful customer deployments, Entrieva is expanding its focus beyond network management to offer interactive voice access to other enterprise applications. Entrieva recently changed its name from Webversa Inc. to reflect its broader focus.

Entrieva is a 3-year-old venture-backed company selling software that provides interactive voice access to network management and other enterprise applications. Entrieva sells software that works with popular network management platforms including Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter, IBM Corp.'s Tivoli and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView along with trouble-ticketing software from Remedy Corp.

When these network management systems report a problem, Entrieva's server-based software determines who the subject-matter expert is, places a call to that person, verifies that person's voice and accepts that person's personal identification number. The expert then can query the network management system and resolve network events with an ongoing voice dialogue. Entrieva's software lets network managers solve problems quickly via the telephone without having to come into the office on nights or weekends.

Behind Entrieva's software is support for two emerging standards that support so-called multimodal communications: VoiceXML 2.0 and Speech Application Language Tags (SALT). Multimodal communications combine speech with more traditional I/O techniques such as text, audio, video or graphics.

VoiceXML is used primarily in telephony applications such as directory access, call routing and call centers. SALT focuses on speech-enabling Web pages for access by telephone users. VoiceXML and SALT are under development by the World Wide Web Consortium, a standards group.

Users of Entrieva's software say the underlying voice processing technology works well.

Entrieva's largest user is the U.S. Army's Military Traffic Management Command, which runs a network that links eight seaports around the globe to its headquarters at Fort Eustis in southern Virginia. The command ships, receives and stores cargo at these ports and transfers it to other ships, trucks and trains. More than 600 desktops are hooked to the command's network, which uses CA's Unicenter as its network management platform.

Several months ago, the command integrated Entrieva's software with Unicenter to let network managers solve network problems remotely by telephone. The command already offered remote access to its network through a VPN, but it found that network managers didn't always have ready access to a PC when a problem arose.

"We had ways for our staff to come into the network via our VPN to do any kind of repair work or recovery work. But you're not always within reach of a workstation to do that," says Dennis Van Langen, director of information management field support for Military Traffic Management Command.

Van Langen says the command's network doesn't have network outage problems often, but problems tend to arise at odd hours. Most problems are routine and can be fixed through predetermined procedures. That made it possible for the command to program Entrieva's software to handle these procedures by voice command.

"We, like most shops, are trying to keep our systems administration staffing levels to a minimum. So we're only talking about a few people that make use of this product," Van Langen says. "But we have found it helpful."

Van Langen says Entrieva's voice processing technology is "surprisingly good. I was pretty skeptical, but the voice recognition is pretty good, and the training time was minimal."

Military Traffic Management Command is so pleased with Entrieva's software that it added an interactive voice interface to another of its enterprise applications: its situation reporting system. Now members of the command can call into a central reporting system from anywhere in the world and file a situation report via telephone with Entrieva's software.

"Voice interface technology has a lot of merit when you consider the ease of use and flexibility," Van Langen says. "It allows you to introduce a very sophisticated front end. Voice is great for getting across abstract concepts."

The Army isn't the only organization to add Entrieva's voice interface to enterprise applications other than network management for which the software originally was designed. Severn Healthcare Provider Services in Columbia, Md., uses Entrieva's software to let its home-based caregivers file patient call reports from cell phones while on the road.

Severn's system walks caregivers through a menu of information that is entered by voice for each patent call report. The Entrieva software is integrated with Severn's Web-based patient care system, which is updated in real-time as the caregiver conveys new information about a patient. Severn's customers, who are managed care providers, instantly can access the latest patient call reports on the Web.

"The system has been working great," says Catherine Hamel, senior vice president at Severn. "It's been reliable, it's been consistent, and the information has been invaluable. We've cut the response time about whether home care should be continued by days. It's been a substantial improvement because it gives more people access to information about what's going on with patients."

Before using Entrieva's voice interface technology, Severn gave caregivers handheld systems to enter patient call reports with a keypad.

"Our care providers wanted the voice interface," Hamel says. "It's easier for them to use cell phones."

Meanwhile, the Entrieva management team is looking beyond interactive voice to new security-oriented applications.

In August, Entrieva bought Semio Corp., which sells content-categorization and indexing software for large databases. Semio's software crawls through unstructured data and extracts relevant information based on a predetermined taxonomy. The Semio software works with portal platforms from SAP AG and Plumtree Software Inc.

Entrieva plans to bridge its Webversa and Semio product lines. Its goal is to offer a suite of products that will let users comb through large amounts of information for key words, and if those key words are found by the system, a voice-enabled alerting capability is triggered.

Entrieva's target market for its combined Webversa and Semio suite are government agencies and critical industries such as energy, chemicals and transportation that are beefing up their security efforts.

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