Start-up extends wireless net management

Start-up mFormation Technologies Inc. last week launched software it says will let customers manage wireless devices as though they were connected to a LAN.

The software, mFormation Enterprise Manager, lets network executives monitor performance, response times, availability and overall status on wireless devices – without requiring users to sync up with the network through a device cradle, the company says. Wireless users often must wait to receive software upgrades, virus alerts or application rollouts until their device can be connected to the corporate network, usually via a cradle that taps into their desktop PC.

Enterprise Manager server software can be installed within a corporate firewall on Sun Solaris or Microsoft Windows NT boxes. Agents are installed on every wireless device to be managed. Agents can also be installed on application and Web and database servers to determine what within the network could be causing performance problems.

The server software can be set to automatically poll the agent at predefined intervals, and customers can manually poll the device if a user reports a performance problem. Also, the agent watches for changes in predefined performance metrics, and if a change is detected, the agent will send that device data to the server.

Jeb Bolding, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, says mFormation Enterprise Manager goes beyond wireless management from companies such as Computer Associates and Tivoli Systems, which have products that provide asset management for wireless devices. He says mFormation software can perform real-time performance and availability monitoring on a wireless device, as well as asset management functions that would indicate to network managers the software and applications installed on the device.

“It seems to me that they have really covered everything with this software, but the company is ahead of user demand and may suffer in that sense,” he says.

He says users may first see the company as a competitor to the likes of CA, Tivoli and Hewlett-Packard, but in fact, data collected by mFormation can be integrated into management consoles from those vendors. Other competitors include Mobile Automation, Callisto and Xcellenet.

“It would make a lot of sense for the CAs and the Tivolis to partner with the company that’s already done the development work,” he says, referring to mFormation.

Because wireless devices are small and easily lost or stolen, mFormation provides several security functions with its Enterprise Manager software. For example, if a device is lost, the server can send commands to the agent to lock the device, delete all contents of the device and halt the delivery of content to the device.

As for wireless networks, carriers and providers, mFormation works with Cingular/Mobitex, Motient, Code Division Multiple Access, Cellular Digital Packet Data and Global Package Radio Service.

Available now, mFormation Enterprise Manager costs US$10,000 for the server software and between US$40 and US$70 per device for the agent component depending on the number of agents purchased.

mFormation can be reached at