Server Eases Handheld Access to Enterprise Apps

AvantGo next week will release a new software server that should make it easier for users of Windows CE and PalmOS devices to access enterprise network resources.

AvantGo Enterprise 3 serves up data from client/server applications in addition to standard HTML-based Web pages. The company has beefed up the server by adding load balancing and support for the Linux and Sun Solaris platforms. Previous versions of the server ran on Windows NT and could only support Web applications, says Rob Meinhardt, director of marketing at AvantGo in San Mateo, California.

The AvantGo Enterprise 3 server acts as a proxy between a handheld device and the company's Internet server, client/server applications and databases.

Using a C-based, server-side API, IT staffs can build connections between enterprise applications or between record-level data sources and a handheld device. The server can also make direct connections to databases through Microsoft's Open Database Connectivity.

Users can connect to the Enterprise 3 server via desktop cradles that come with most handheld devices for connecting to PCs, or through direct dial, wireless connections or special kiosks.

AvantGo supports batch processing, in which the data is queued until the next time the device connects with the server, as well as real-time transactions using wireless or direct-dial connections.

Client-side support for JavaScript is now included, allowing more logic to be added to handheld applications. This lets disconnected users work without having to connect to the server for every transaction. AvantGo also enhanced security with support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) 3 technology.

Users can get up to 128-bit encryption between client and server.

McKessonHBOC, a pharmaceutical distribution firm based in San Francisco, is using AvantGo to help keep better track of its inventories and shipments.

The company uses ruggedized PalmOS-based devices with built-in bar code scanners from Symbol Technologies. Delivery drivers can download their daily route and delivery information into their handheld devices and then scan each package as it's delivered.

The data from the handheld device is uploaded upon return to McKesson's facility.

"We're just getting into the Internet. This lets us leverage that side of the business without having to redesign the wheel each time," says Jesse Bork, a project leader at McKesson.

Bork says he has just begun upgrading from Version 2.1 to Version 3 on two Windows NT servers.

He likes the new support for SSL and the increased performance he's seen in synchronization times. Bork also likes the server's improved integration with databases, making it easier for him to push data from McKesson's Oracle repositories down to his handheld clients.

Though he is pleased with Version 3 overall, Bork says he would like to see better administration capabilities: "Right now, AvantGo has a Web-based control feature that lets you add and delete users and groups. I would like to see that expanded."

Pricing for AvantGo Enterprise 3 starts at US$150 per user.

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