If You Can't Beat Consumer Apps, Why Fight Them?

By C.G. Lynch, CIO.com |  Software, Social Networking, startup

If you've ever sat in front of your computer and wished that you could see your ugly enterprise software appear in Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook or iGoogle, WorkLight might be the start-up vendor for you. The company's philosophy is pretty simple: if enterprise apps will never be as cool as their cousins in the consumer market, why fight it? And if you can do this securely, without compromising your enterprise data, why not just give users what they want?

Since WorkLight launched in February, 2006, the company says it has garnered many large enterprise clients, including some major banks. Because customers use a WorkLight server that sits behind a firewall and acts as middleware between the enterprise app and consumer app, the information doesn't pass through Google or Facebook's servers.

Thursday, CIO's C.G. Lynch caught up with WorkLight's CEO and co-founder, Shahar Kaminitz, for a quick update on the Web 2.0 market moving forward and WorkLight's place in it.

CIO: Who is buying WorkLight? And how are enterprises using it?

Kaminitz: Our customers are all really large enterprises with rather complex requirements around security and compliance. Some use it for externally-facing applications to serve their customers and business partners outside the firewall.

E-banking is a classical example. Every bank pretty much has an online banking site or portal, where customers can log-in, check their balance, pay their bills or look at their portfolio. Overall, they often see disappointing usage off these portals, because it requires people to proactively come into the bank's website, log-in, and check their accounts.

It's not so much a Web 2.0 approach, where you have everything personalized and just the way you want it. So we've done some projects with big retail banks, to take this secure information of their customers and making it available where their customers are spending their online time.

CIO: What consumer apps do these customers prefer?

Kaminitz: It pretty much follows their habits and people's habits are different. So today, when you deploy WorkLight's technology, you get the applications available automatically on 15 different environments. The environment [users choose] is often different based on their geography and demography. With a younger demographic, obviously Facebook is pretty big. The personalized homepages like iGoogle and live.com are also pretty popular. In other places, outside the U.S., there are other services that are more popular, like Netvibes, which is very popular in Europe. We've seen, in other demographics, that desktop widgets like Vista Sidebar gadgets or the Apple gadgets. I think it's pretty much about giving your customers a choice.

CIO: WorkLight is also used internally at companies, right? Tell us about that use case.

Kaminitz: We do see steady revenue for internal use in companies. I'm talking about large corporations around the 100,000 employees. Those companies want to see our solution as a solution to traditional enterprise software packages. Instead of investing in an expensive portal, they use iGoogle internally. Instead of building a new collaboration and knowledge sharing product, they might use Facebook. People are already [using those sites], so instantly you get 40 or 50 percent adoption.

One of our customers is a bank with 80,000 employees. They did an internal survey, and they found that almost half of them, more than 40 percent, were already on Facebook. It would take them years to get those people actively collaborating and using something like SharePoint.

CIO: There's been a lot of developments in the effort to bring enterprise apps to the consumer market. LinkedIn recently launched its app platform, and Facebook announced that you could transport enterprise apps from Salesforce.com's Force.com platform over to Facebook. Is this a threat to WorkLight?

Kaminitz: These are positive developments from our perspective. Our interest is very simple: we believe consumer platforms will become more and more open. Our value proposition isn't around the gadget [or widget] development. It's about adding the security and compliance and integration layers, which none of these Web 2.0 vendors are doing, nor is it in their business model. People are buying IBM and Microsoft because it's enterprise grade. It has all the things IT requires. But the consumer tools provide such a better end-user experience, and people have to choose between the two. Before, Facebook wasn't an option because of security. We want to provide the best of both worlds, something that's enterprise grade while giving that consumer experience.

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