Nexaweb Names CEO

Software startup is one of a number of vendors hoping to make it big in Rich Internet applications (RIAs)

September 9, 2005

3 Min Read
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Software startup Nexaweb Technologies Inc. has appointed a new CEO as the company looks to make it big in the emerging market for rich Internet applications (RIAs).

Thomas C. Browne, a former lieutenant commander and aviator in the U.S. Navy, has taken the helm from former CEO Larry Geisel, who remains in an advisory role with the company.

Coach Wei, Nexawebs founder and CTO, tells NDCF that the startup, which clinched around $4.5 million in funding in 2003, is now close to sealing its Series B. “We’re going to announce something very soon,” says the former EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) software engineer and MIT graduate.

RIA software is essentially a hybrid of traditional Web and desktop applications, which aims to boost the performance of Web browsers. The software lets the browser access data without having to refresh entire Web pages, which means that information can be transferred more quickly. Nexaweb, for example, installs a Java applet, or "client engine," on the user’s browser, which is then used to deliver the applications.

Probably the best known RIA product is Macromedia Inc.’s Flash platform, which is used to deliver complex visual images on a standard Web browser. Nexaweb and its competitors, however, are more focused on handling data-intensive business applications.Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, believes RIA technology is important because it can boost the performance of interfaces used for complex applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

To illustrate this point, Wei claims that Nexaweb’s software can handle up to 100,000 rows of application data on a Web browser, compared to “just a few thousand” on a non-RIA-enabled interface.

Wei says Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) is currently using Nexaweb software to support its global sales systems, and SunGard (NYSE: SDS) has deployed the technology for mutual fund management. Since its launch in 2000, he says, Nexaweb has racked up around 20 customers, he adds.

Browne will now be in charge of taking the company to the next level, says Wei. “He has the depth of knowledge, the skills, and the experience that we are looking for to accelerate the growth of the company."

This will include launching a Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) .Net version of Nexaweb’s client engine next year, broadening its customer base, and adding five software engineers to the company’s 40-strong workforce.Nexaweb, however, is not the only vendor in this space, although its rivals are taking different approaches to RIA technology. Whereas Nexaweb, for example, uses a Java applet on the Web browser, other vendors, such as ICEsoft Technologies Inc., Backbase B.V., and JackBe Corp. employ an emerging standard called Asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX), which is made up of a number of different programming tools. These include Dynamic HTML (DHTML), the Document Object Model (DOM), and, of course, Extensible Markup Language (XML).

ICEsoft, for example, is using AJAX as the “underlying plumbing” to support its ICEfaces software, which will be available early next year. Robert Lepack, the company’s vice president of marketing, says that AJAX makes the technology easier for developers to work with. “Forcing people to use Java technology is not an easy thing,” he observes. “It’s not ubiquitous.”

These sentiments are echoed by Jouk Pleiter, CEO of Backbase. “Extending HTML is ten times easier for an HTML programmer than learning a new programming language,” he says.

Wei says that after testing AJAX some years ago, Nexaweb settled on Java because it is “a proven, robust, enterprise infrastructure.” However, he admits that his products are not specifically targeted at HTML developers.

ZapThink's Schmelzer says that at this point, no single RIA vendor has the lion’s share of the market. “No one is dominant at the moment. But the market is still maturing, so we will have to see.”— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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