Dreaming of streaming?

If you're dreaming of streaming, it's time to wake up and smell the technology. SoftOnNet has some Windows-friendly streaming stuff on the market aimed at IT managers, application service providers and software publishers.

Imagine a world where everyone has a set of encyclopedias on their desk -- even if they need to use them only once or twice a month. That's pretty much the world of software delivery.

San Jose, Calif.-based SoftOnNet thinks applications should be stored centrally much like a brood of Britannicas. The company recently introduced a new version of software for streaming Windows applications.

Everything from CPU-intensive apps like AutoCAD to memory-hungry ones like Adobe PhotoShop can be streamed. Z!Stream 2.0 now includes support for all Windows operating systems on the client side from Windows 95 to Windows XP. Z!Stream runs on Linux, Unix and Windows servers.

Unlike other products, Z!Stream is not server-based computing. In other words, the actually computing is done on the client machine. The only thing coming from the server is the application itself. No data go to the server, so security isn't a major concern.

To stream an application, a user only needs Internet Explorer, a network connection and the necessary system requirements to run it traditionally. Clicking an embedded link on a Web page begins the streaming. When Z!Stream is first used, a small piece of software is installed. The server then streams the pieces of the application necessary for the client computer to run it.

Though high-speed network connections are best, the product will work with dial-up connections, said Keibock Lee, SoftOnNet's CEO. Only pieces of the application that are needed are downloaded, not the whole application. "Let's say you are playing a game that has 10 levels but you are on level two," Lee said. "Levels three through 10 aren't downloaded until you need them."

SoftOnNet sees IT managers, application service providers and software publishers as prime customers for Z!Stream.

For IT managers, Z!Stream offers a centralized way to manage software updates. It's just a matter of changing the application on the server, not on each computer. Administrators can also tailor their software purchases based on usage. For example, a company could buy 50 copies of an application, as only that many will use it concurrently.

Z!Stream is also a boon to software publishers, who can use it to offer demos from their Web sites, Lee said. Streaming an application is an easier way to try an application than downloading and installing it. This method also tells the publisher what features trial users like the most. "When they download an application, the company has no idea what is being done with it," he said.

Streamed applications can be used offline, but they can be set to expire after a certain amount of time. Moreover, software can be delivered via Z!Stream as a rental or subscription, Lee said. This capability is aimed at application service providers such as San Jose-based Bradford Technologies.

Bradford Technologies is integrating Z!Stream into its ClickFORMS form processing application. Delivery with Z!Stream will allow users to concentrate on their business rather than worrying about running a server farm, said Jeff Bradford, the company's president.

For example, a real estate board may decide to offer form processing of contracts to its members, Bradford said. The board installs ClickFORMS, on a simple dual processor server. Members can then log in to access the forms, which can be updated centrally when needed. The system can also monitor use of the forms, especially when a member needs to pay dues.

Z!Stream is available for Unix, Linux and Windows on the server side. It costs $15,000 initially with capacity for 50 concurrent users. Each additional block of 50 users is $1200.

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