itmWEB TechWeekly

December 14, 1997

The Technology View from Silicon Valley 

Some technology observations from a recent business trip to Silicon Valley. The intranet is moving closer to the enterprise center.

Since my company maintains sales, service, and product engineering operations in the Santa Clara area, I have frequent opportunities to visit the Silicon Valley area for business meetings. During a recent trip, I was able to visit with several companies regarding innovative IT ideas. In this week's feature I would like to share some of my observations from these visits with you.

My First Stop - A New Software Start-up

My first stop was a new software start-up in the San Mateo area called Virtual Headquarters. This new software company has been capitalized by a group of investors including a "Big 6" consulting firm. Both the business and product development teams are a comprised of seasoned industry professionals. Their product launch will be in 1998.

For the folks at Virtual Headquarters, our conversation was an opportunity to get some real world feedback regarding their product concepts. For me, it was a chance to get an inside look at the technology behind next generation applications. As usual, I signed a non-disclosure agreement - so I can only talk in generalities.

Virtual Headquarters is very focused on products which falling into the executive reporting, data mart, and supply chain management marketing space. Most of what I saw was client server based. However, many of the the intranet application concepts they outlined for me were exciting. To me, it underscored the fact that many of the application software products which will see in the 1998 releases will require a significant intranet foundation to be in place. If you are looking for justification to implement an intranet at your company, try this one - many innovative new applications will not run without an intranet foundation.

I came away from my visit with a better appreciation for what specialized data warehouse and data mart databases can do for our company. I also peeked behind the technology curtain to see what tomorrow's application platforms will look like. My sense of urgency about the quality of our intranet had certainly increased by the time I left Virtual Headquarter's offices.

Next - A Quick Stop into Fry's Electronics

The next day I drove over to our corporate office in Santa Clara. I always try to stop by this office for several hours to see what new software or hardware our California employees were considering requesting. Each trip I also try to spend a few hours at Fry's Electronics (in Sunnyvale) just to see what technology products the crowds are gathered around. If you've never heard of Fry's, click here for an explanation (but be warned - this humorous review contains many four letter words).

Both of these Silicon Valley visits help to keep me from having to learn about important new software and hardware products through employee purchase requests. This trip I found the hot topics to be 56k modem standards, JAZ drives, the new Palm Pilot, switching ethernet hubs, Riven (the sequel to Myst), Office 97, Windows 98 Beta, Netscape vs. Explorer, and digital cameras (in no particular order).

Last - An Application Site Visit

After my on the spot market research at Fry's, I headed over to a meeting with another semiconductor equipment maker which is a global partner of our company. The purpose of the visit was to walk through their Customer Response Center (CRC) in order to see their work flow approach, as well as their CRC's technology foundation. This is a business function our company is currently implementing.

Again, I was impressed with the innovative use of intranet technology. The center had current customer status information displayed on monitors around the center, but more importantly, the same information and the associated details were available through the intranet to anyone, anywhere, worldwide. This was accomplished through the use of replicated databases, active server pages, and server based programs. Again, I walked out of a visit with a deeper appreciation for the importance of intranet based applications and a much longer information technology "To Do" list.