Aquas, Inc. is a small company specializing in developing productivity tools for on-line applications. Their main product is Bazaar Analyzer Pro, an application developed in Java that can analyze Web activity in order to monitor the effectiveness of both commercial Web sites and Intranets. They employ about twenty people in the United States and Bombay, India. JDJ interviewed Nitin Komawar, Chairman and CEO and Steve Shank, VP Sales & Marketing of Aquas, Inc.
JDJ: Could you tell us about Aquas and your positions in the company?
SS: I'm Steve Shank, VP of Sales and Marketing and this is Nitin Komawar, founder and CEO. Aquas was founded in 1995 and is an outgrowth of a successful consulting company. That company provided the funds for Aquas. The consulting company specialized in TCP/IP networking and the Internet. They got a lot of feedback from their customers about what they wanted to see in the product area.
We have about twenty employees working on this product as well as doing consulting. Our sales offices are located in New York, the Boston area and Sunnyvale, California. Our development offices are in Sunnyvale and Bombay, India. India has become a major source of software development and is fully integrated into the Internet world. Our offices around the world allow us to respond to problems on a 24-hour basis. That's being responsive.
Nitin Komawar, our CEO, founded two other Internet software companies with his partner, Sandip Chitawar, our President and Chief Technical Officer.
I also come from a strong startup environment. I was involved with Symantec in the early days of Apple Computer. I have a strong technical background, but I like the marketing and evangelizing part of the industry. The reason we started doing work in the Internet environment comes from our market analysis. At the end of this year, statistics show that there are 500,000 commercial Web sites in existence, but the interesting statistic is that 60 percent of those commercial Web sites are being hosted by third-party providers. This means you have 60 percent of the companies on the Web with no direct access to detailed information about the performance of their Web site.
The other market environment that we are seeing is the international adoption of the Internet. I think that this is the year of Europe. Europe has traditionally been one to two years behind the US and there is forecasted to be tremendous growth in the European market. Japan is also growing at 700 percent per year. We are well positioned to take advantage of the globalization of the Internet with respect to multinational companies.
JDJ: How do you see this growth affecting the Java development community?
NK: If you look at the Intranet market, especially with respect to multinational companies with multiple servers scattered over the globe, there is the need for a product that can monitor Intranet activity for different groups within the organization. Internal services like HR, Finance and Engineering will definitely want to connect on the Intranet and use the different sites. Such a tool can help them to use the Web and the Intranet properly by monitoring the activity on the Intranet.
JDJ: So a company would use your product to monitor their Intranet traffic.
SS: There is a lot of opportunity for that. You could have the HR department post announcements that have to be read by division managers within the rest of the company. HR could then check and see if in fact those division managers have checked in to read the latest personnel policy. There are all levels of local Web sites where companies might want to know who's accessing the site, where they are going and how they are spending their time. That is a part of the marketplace that this particular product addresses.
JDJ: Is Aquas looking to develop applications for project management using Bazaar Analyzer?
SS: We aren't looking at that market specifically, but Analyzer is intended to be used across the Web so it is not industry focused. Anybody who has a Web site for whatever reason can use Analyzer to know more than just the number of people who are hitting their site. You need to ask, "Who are these people? Where are they coming from? How much time are they spending on the particular pages?" What can we infer if we see IBM is one of our visitors and that they are looking at our technical Web page more than they are looking at Sales and Marketing? Does that infer that they have an interest in our technology?
We want our customers to be able to mine the data that comes out of Analyzer to make business decisions that are now impossible to make. We want this information not only in the hands of the Web Master, but the business people who need to know how effectively their Web site is being used. This has been difficult in the past because traditional products fall into one of two camps: one is a fat client where there is a workstation that has to be specially loaded to match the server software. There are problems of having multiple platforms throughout the enterprise, so you have to worry, as the Internet manager or the IT manager, about implementing this throughout the enterprise. Then you have to worry about downloading massive amounts of information from the server into these special client's hands because the traditional analysis is done on the client's side, not the server side. You can see that if the Web log which we are analyzing consists of two to four megabytes of data, the organization is not going to want to download that too many times or they clog up their bandwidth. That imposes restrictions on the organization so that only one or two people have this tool and everyone else has to depend on those one or two people generating reports.
The other camp in this particular marketplace is one in which there is a thin client. The application resides on the server side and not the client side, but again the applications are platform-dependent and depend on the log file somehow being downloaded into the users' hands. Both of these are cumbersome and remove the element of being real-time based. I can only analyze the data that was downloaded to me at some particular time and date and can't see what's happened a minute ago. I can't change my time base to be up to date.
However, the use of Java overcomes all of these problems. It changes the model because Java-based browsers will be so common that everyone will be Java-enabled. By definition then, they become enabled to use this tool.
JDJ: What was the development cycle like for this product?
NK: It was developed in-house. I wrote it initially because I realized that we needed to get information on our Intranet site in real-time. Java was the right choice.
JDJ: How did you come up with this idea?
NK: Initially, we started building an oversight product. We started discussing and analyzing our own site. Then we saw opportunity in the market for different types of analysis reports. The problem was that we are a small company and we needed connectivity. To pay for the service from an ISP was very expensive. When the connection goes off in a couple of minutes, you have to start the process again. We wanted to set up a nice interface and we wanted to be able to get simplified reports from remote sites. We committed initially to client/server and while we know both C++ and TCIP, we chose to use Java. I thought that it was a very good language to develop the application.
JDJ: What were some of the problems that developed while you were doing the development?
NK: We started developing this application about a year and a half back. At that time Java was just beginning and it was not stable. We faced a number of very weird problems and nobody had the solutions, so we had to make our own. When Java came out with a stable version of JDK, those problems went away, but in the beginning there were problems.
JDJ: How does Bazaar Analyzer store its data?
NK: Right now, we have our own database. Soon, we'll be using ODBC to all the standard databases.
SS: One of the things that we are also seeing in some of the browsers is that their full implementation of Java is not as uniform as we would like. So, sometimes performance is atypical, not because of anything that we have done, but because some of the browsers do their job implementations differently. That's sorting itself out very rapidly, but its one of the problems about being on the leading edge of a technology that is just becoming fully standardized.
JDJ: What types of clients are using Analyzer now?
SS: One of the major market segments of our clientele are the Internet service providers. Just as Nitin mentioned, downloading data from them to do local analysis is expensive. Everyone whose commercial Web site is being hosted by these ISPs has the same problem. Our product directly addresses those problems. We have worked with Exodus, who is a high-end serious commercial Web site hosting company and Aimnet, who is also in the commercial Web site hosting business. We are also talking to a number of server companies who are thinking very seriously about packaging our product in with their servers so that they can provide a service where you not only can get to your Web, but you can actually see how it is performing:
NK: As you look at the Java APIs with respect to monitoring, you can be very effective. I think that as this industry matures, Java development will provide enhancements to the interface.
JDJ: What enhancements to your product are you looking at now?
NK: Right now, it is a single server application, one site at a time. I imagine that as the Internet matures there will be multiple servers in the corporation and there will be a lot of traffic going on. This distributed environment needs to monitor all the servers simultaneously. If anyone wants to find out how much any one department is using the facilities, the best way is to have one person sitting at a machine being able to monitor all the servers remotely. We'll be moving from a single site to a distributed environment where you can monitor multiple servers at the same time.
SS: As the idea of using productivity analysis tools within an enterprise Web site matures, we will begin to bring out new products that we call On-line Productivity Tools. These tools will be directed toward maximizing performance for on-line technologies and applications. This will go well beyond the packet mentality of data moving back and forth per unit of time. We want to maximize the use of our resources such as e-mail, our FTP services and our Web site and the actual data that accrues from that. In the future, as this market broadens, we will be able to provide both a backbone and standard approach for companies to do their site monitoring. There is an opportunity for other developers using Java techniques to tie into our backbone and develop specialized software for particular companies. I think that will be an opportunity here in the next year.
JDJ: What's unique about your company?
SS: It's an interesting merge of cultures, so we both try to learn from each other and are sensitive to each other's backgrounds. There is an interesting feel to the office both in decor and holidays and the way we communicate. We have to be careful on catering the meals.
NK: There is a lot of movement between here and Bombay. We bring people from Bombay to learn new technology and then send them back to be the seed group. Java is all new stuff, but most of our people working on Java come from a networking background. They all have Masters degrees in Computer Science with a major in networking. That really helped us to learn the new technology. Each of our employees has a part of the company. They each have shares, which is standard in Silicon Valley.
SS: I think that for the developers that we have, using the newest evolving standards is a challenge that is different from learning C++ in school. There, they were applying well understood techniques. Now there is the challenge of plowing the ground at the same time we are planting the seeds. However, from a marketing viewpoint, that means that we have new marketing opportunities that never have existed before.