Transforming a Passive Network into an Active Business Advantage
Anyone who has ever used the Internet knows both the opportunities and the problems it presents. A wealth of data is easily accessible--if you have the time and patience to find it and process it into useful business information. Content is often difficult to locate; Web sites are frequently too busy to accept additional log-ons; networks go down and interrupt sessions.
These problems stem from the fact that today's Internet is a passive network. The Internet merely makes information available; it is still up to the user to go out and get it. Productivity on today's Internet is still connection-dependent. Tools such as browsers and applets are only useful while the connection is live, and still require manual interaction with the user.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the Internet is still largely unsecured. Security technology development has focused on online commerce and financial transactions, while other critical security issues, such as privacy and accountability, still need to be fully addressed.
It's Becoming a Business Issue
Competitive businesses can no longer afford to view these issues as mere inconveniences to users or temporary roadblocks. As the number of Internet users, Web sites, and corporate intranets continues to grow, the inherent latencies and perceived risks of using the Internet are beginning to add up to serious cost in terms of lost productivity.
Clearly, there is a tremendous opportunity for forward-looking companies to gain a competitive advantage by providing engaging information and services while maximizing security and productivity on the Internet. And that is why many organizations are now investigating "active" agent-based technologies for their Web sites and corporate networks.
Activating the Network: Business Benefits
An active network enables users to delegate tasks to agents, which proactively seek out and retrieve requested information. When the agents locate the information, they notify the user via email, pager, or fax, and the user can simply log on to the designated server and views or downloads the information.
The key opportunity agent-based technology presents for businesses is the ability to offer proactive network services to both internal and external network users. These services can help the company improve employee productivity, as well as distinguish itself and enhance its reputation for superior customer service.
For example, with agent technology a newspaper could offer a classified advertising service that actually matches potential buyers with sellers, rather than simply posting an ad. A brokerage firm could offer a service that continuously monitors specified stock prices and alerts a customer when a given threshold is crossed. Or a company could use agents in its order entry system to automatically check inventory and update shipping. The possibilities are limitless.
Moreover, agent technology presents an opportunity for businesses to allocate their networking resources more efficiently. For example, administrators can use agent technology to establish policies about when and how various users can access the site. Permissions can be designated for specific types of agents based on time of day, source location of the agent, or specific user names.
Similarly, agents can be programmed to visit certain sites only at certain times, or to stay on the site for limited periods of time. When permissions can be controlled with fine granularity, resource use is more predictable and stable, so businesses can make more informed decisions about capacity and load balancing.
Agent technology gives organizations the opportunity to go beyond simply offering content; it allows them to offer a proactive, full-service Web site. By making interactive Web services available, companies can raise the value of their content because their Web applications will deliver higher productivity and convenience to end users. Enterprises can deploy secure, distributed services on the corporate intranet, enabling it to better serve both internal and external customers. And businesses can position themselves to take full advantage of the emerging new paradigm in network computing.
Core Requirements for Effective Agent Technology
A variety of special purpose, agent-based technologies are now under development or on the market. However, they vary greatly in their ability to solve the key challenges users face in accessing and using network services.
General Magic believes that to be truly productive and effective delivery vehicles for interactive services, agents must have three key characteristics. They must be:
&128;Active--Agents should have the ir own thread of control, allowing them to travel anywhere on any type of network, interact with other agents. as they visit multiple sites.
&128;Persistent--If the network is up, agents should attempt to perform their tasks continuously until they succeed or untile the Web site manager suspends their operations, or until the user asks them to stop. If the network is down, the agent should maintain its instructions and resume its attempts to fulfill the request once the network comes back up. The user should be able to "fire and forget" the request; the user interaction should not be connection dependent and should be able to be decoupled from the task.
&128;Secure--A complete spectrum of security measures should be available, including twp-way authentication, which ensures that every agent acts only on the user's authority and has privileges only on authorized sites; access control and privacy features, which ensure that agents have no direct access to system resources and that access to any resource is always predefined and controllable; and fine-grained controls that enable developers and operators to govern resource consumption and uniquely identify agents.
General Magic's Answer to Customer Requirements
General Magic is currently the only company that delivers on the full spectrum of requirements for interactive Internet services. The company's Tabriz agent products, based on the innovative Telescript programming language, allow developers to create agents that are truly active, persistent, and secure.
Simply put, General Magic Tabriz agent products enable companies to transform their passive networks into active business resources. This enables them to create a significant competitive edge, deliver higher customer satisfaction, and facilitate higher profitability.
The next section provides details about the cornerstone products of the Tabriz line: Tabriz AgentWare and Tabriz Agent Tools. This discussion is followed by an in-depth examination of the key competitive advantages of Tabriz technology.
Executive Summary | The Solution