Server eases the delivery of e-mail applications

Any non-chef knows if you’re hosting a dinner party it’s a lot less hassle to pick up a prepared cake mix than to whip one up from scratch.

The same philosophy works in the IT world. If you’re building an application, it’s easier to use pre-built components than to start from nothing.

Operating on that theory, Delano Technology Corp. of Richmond Hill, Ont., is aiming to give e-mail savvy firms a pre-packaged option with its first, and so far only, product, the Delano E-mail Application Server. Delano’s product includes business rules, interfaces and components that allow firms to create customized e-mail applications quickly and simply.

Tony Davis, Delano’s chief technical officer, explained the tasks handled by an e-mail application could range from simply generating automatic responses to storing inbound e-mail in a database, looking at what the e-mail says and then routing the e-mail to a particular destination.

“We’ve seen customers of ours take this and do electronic surveys via e-mail,” he said.

Citizens Bank, a branchless Toronto-based institution and a Delano beta site, is using the application server to automate interactions with real estate brokers and agents through e-mail.

Another beta user, Caere, is using Delano’s product to support users of its scanner software. Caere receives tens of thousands of registrations a month and is now e-mailing customized upgrade offers to its clients.

Delano’s application builder has a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to choose which prebuilt components they want to include in their applications.

“You can take a database component and just drag it on and that gives you all the functionality to store information in the database,” Davis said.

Although customers creating applications with the e-mail server don’t need to be programming geniuses, they should have at least some programming experience, Davis explained.

“The minimum requirements would be a Visual Basic type of programmer, although we’ve got some marketing people who have created applications,” he noted.

Delano’s E-mail Application Server can sit on the same server as a company’s e-mail, or it can sit on its own server. It runs on Windows NT and the recommended minimum configuration is a 333MHz Pentium II with 128MB RAM.

If the e-mail application server is running on its own machine, it can be set up at a remote location away from other servers, Davis said. The application server is able to interact with other systems anywhere on the network via Internet protocols and interacts with e-mail systems through POP, SMTP and IMAP protocols.

David Strom, president of Port Washington, N.Y., consultancy David Strom Inc. and author of a book entitled Internet Messaging, said Delano’s product is the first he has seen with a visual drag-and-drop approach to building e-mail applications.

Strom said he believes e-mail applications will eventually play a big role in the development of e-commerce.

“A customer could place an order and the e-mail application could confirm the order, confirm when you ship it and do the payment process,” he said.

However, Strom added, many people don’t yet understand e-mail’s full potential.

“It’s just not a very visual kind of medium. We’re talking about sending messages from one place to another. It’s just not sexy.”

While the E-mail Application Server is Delano’s first product, both Davis and Delano’s executive vice-president of products, Bahman Koohestani, have plenty of experience in the messaging market.

Koohestani led the messaging products team at Netscape Corp., while Davis was the inventor of Delrina’s WinFax and Lanacom’s Headliner products.

The Delano E-mail Application Server will be commercially available in April. Pricing begins at US$5,000 and scales from small business licences to enterprise-wide coverage.

Delano can be reached at 1-877-264-8881 or at