Nine wireless network companies to watch

Smarter smart phones, beyond the BlackBerry and exploiting XML

Zenprise

Founded: February 2003

Location: Fremont, California, US.

What it offers: Zenprise for BlackBerry, a server software program that automatically troubleshoots the entire end-to-end BlackBerry wireless e-mail environment.

The software constantly monitors and tests all elements in the chain, from the handheld to the enterprise server, to the Exchange server, to the wireless carrier network, to RIM's own network operations center. Zenprise detects a problem, runs some power analytical tools to sort out what's wrong, and recommends steps for IT or e-mail administrators to take. A management console shows color-coded rankings of service availability, message latency, pending messages and e-mail inactivity, all vulnerable parts of the mobile e-mail chain.

The latest version, released in July, added simpler views of e-mail system health for line-of-business executives and for mobile users, and new ways for administrators to group and monitor end users.

Why it's worth watching: Zenprise for BlackBerry software was launched in February 2007. Two months later, when RIM's North American BlackBerry network crashed, Zenprise customers were perhaps the only people on the continent who knew hours before anyone else that 1) there was a problem, 2) it was serious, and 3) it was in RIM's NOC. What everyone else saw as a third-party service that customers were dependent upon, Zenprise understood to be a critical enterprise asset that customers needed to manage like any other. The software makes it possible to actually enforce service-level agreements and improve support to mobile e-mail users.

Management: Waheed Qureshi, founder, chairman and CTO. Previously, he launched Zambeel, a start-up that focused on scalable network-attached storage subsystems. Earlier, he worked on eXcelon's ObjectStore, an early commercial object-oriented database. A member of IEEE and holder of several patents, he has a Ph.D in computer sciences from USC. CEO Jayaram Bhat started at Intel in 1980 as product manager for the Intel 286 processor. From 1993 to 2001, he was vice president of marketing for Mercury Interactive. Most recently, he consulted with CEO's of various high-tech companies on business strategy and venture funding.

How it got its start: Qureshi took his car in for repairs and noticed the mechanic simply hooked the car to a computer, which instantly diagnosed the problems. He thought about a "digital mechanic" for the enterprise data center: using programs to automatically identify problems with servers or applications, create instructions to solve them, and even predict future problems. So that would make the company's software a Zenmaster digital mechanic.

How company got its name: From the idea of bringing enlightenment and wisdom to the enterprise through intuitive insight, which sounds pretty Zen-like itself.

Funding: Most recent funding is series C; has raised roughly US$22 million to date. Investors are Mayfield, Shasta Ventures and Bay Partners.

Who's using the product: Among others, the County of Alemeda, California, whose IT staff used it to watch RIM's BlackBerry service wither and die, and Grant Thornton.

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