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Interviews With Mobile Computing Vendors
- XcelleNet / Afaria -

MobileInfo.com Interviews Joe Owen, CTO of XcelleNet!
(Interview Number 2- June 2002)

Afaria is one of the leading solutions that help companies manage its mobile devices, applications and content from a central location. Since mobile asset management has become an increasingly important issue in mobile computing, MobileInfo.Com interviewed CTO of Xcellenet again during June 2002 (the first interview was conducted in February 2001) to find out how this sector of the market has changed and how XcelleNet has evolved.  Here is our version of the interview in easy-to-understand (net, net) format - devoid of marketing hype. That is our style at MobileInfo.Com.

Question #1.
We interviewed you last year in February 2001. Please tell us what changes have taken place at XcelleNet during the last year, especially with respect to Afaria product being brought back into the fold of XcelleNet


  • Last year, we had created a separate organization structure for the development and marketing of Afaria product. We wanted to create a distinction between XcelleNet's Remoteware and Afaria mobile asset management solutions.
  • However, last year's economic environment has indicated that it will be better for our customers as well as for us at XcelleNet to re-integrate Afaria mobile asset management solution into the XcelleNet family. The change was made for both operational and financial reasons. Customers want to see a single inter-face with their vendors for managing their remote offices as well as their mobile workers.

Question #2.
How does today's XcelleNet Afaria product differ from the old Afaria product? How has your product strategy changed especially in the synchronization area - with the acquisition of eHand and your previous partnership with Puma? 


  • In 1999, we made an OEM agreement with Puma which, at that time, was a leading device to server synchronization vendor. This allowed us with our core strength as device management to offer a more complete solution to our joint clients. 
  • While Puma synchronization software did meet our needs at the time, we felt that Puma did not have as much focus on enterprise server requirements as we wanted. Therefore, we also made an OEM deal with eHand in Stockholm in the spring 2001 and delivered our first jointly-developed product in the summer of 2001. Later, we acquired eHand (which had a staff of 15 people).
  • We have now created a combined Afaria synchronization group out of the resources from eHand and a few from XcelleNet. The mission of this group is to create a synchronization product that integrates with our device management software as well as future products in wireless gateway space.

Question #3.
Your website suggests that you have packaged your solutions according to vertical industry solutions. Your base product is quite horizontal . Have you developed special enhancements, user inter-face implementation templates to make it more meaningful to a special industry solution. 


  • We agree that our product is essentially horizontal. We have not created special enhancements or tem-plates for vertical industries. We do have sample applications but we leave that part of the job to application developers. Some vendors such as Aether have provided both applications and device management solutions. Industry-oriented emphasis on our website is purely marketing-oriented to appeal to certain vertical industry sectors where there is a critical need for device management. 

Question #4.
Last year was a rough year for business in general and wireless/mobile in particular. From your van-tage point, how do you see the market now and in future? Why do you feel the way you do? How has your business been affected?


  • Yes, market has become very tough. Every vendor has been affected and so are we. However, we are among a few exceptional companies which eked out a small profit last year. We did not have huge layoffs - only limited reorganization to improve our business processes.
  • We have thousands of paying customers weith over million seats (devices being managed). We are a viable business. Therefore, we shall outlast the current downturn successfully.
  • Outlook is still bright. Wireless projects are among the high-priority projects. As IT budget purse strings are loosened, wireless will get more than their ample share. 

Question #5.
Who are your competitors? How do you distinguish yourselves from the competition. Who do you consider your competition?


  • Extended Systems, Synchrologic, Aether, AvantGo, Novadigm, Microsoft SMS and Tivoli are all competing in the space we are in. Synchronization service portal companies such as FusionOne have essentially disappeared. That market (synchronization platform for consumers) is dead right now. Pumatech business model for consumer synchronization has more life than FusionOne business model. 

    As far as XcelleNet is concerned, our strategy is to be the most-competitive device management and synchronization solution provider.

MobileInfo Advisory and Comments:  In a turbulent mobile computing market, XcelleNet has demonstrated technical depth in its products, maturity and strength - a rarity in this space. It is among a select group of vendors who provide leadership in systems management of remote and mobile devices. It has been active in this space for almost a decade with thousands of customers. It provides asset management solutions for both continuously-connected and occasionally-connected devices through wireline and wireless networks. It also caters to the needs of remote devices in branch offices as well as truly-mobile devices.  

Initially, XcelleNet had felt that data synchronization and mobile systems management do not mix very well, even though the two functions are required in an enterprise technology architecture. It did OEM Puma's synchronization software to meet customer requirements. Now, XcelleNet has its own synchronization server through its acquisition of eHand. We would encourage XcelleNet to enhance its product offerings by providing a wireless access gateway (WAG). This WAG should be designed in a modular fashion so that it can work or without with big-name application servers like IBM's WebSphere or BEA's WebLogic.  

Finally, we urge all systems management vendors to incorporate diagnostic side of device management by importing SNMP type alerts about device and/or software failures into a centralized database. Remember that this need comes before managing assets. What is the use of an asset that fails and you do not know about it? From an IT management perspective, it is the same support team that manages resolution of operational problems as the one that handles asset management and keeps application versions synchronized. 

We expect XcelleNet to emerge as a strong survivor with a more complete and integrated mobile solution portfolio after the current phase of mobile computing vendor shake down is over. 

MobileInfo.Com thanks Joe Owen, CTO of XcelleNet for this interview.

All comments in this interview are the property of MobileInfo.Com website. They may not be reproduced without written permission from us.

Related Resources:
> MobileInfo's Interview Conducted in February 2001 - Covers broader ground than this interview 
> XcelleNet's Afaria Solution


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