Technology briefs

Microsoft search tools to recognize speech
Microsoft announced that it is acquiring Tellme Networks, a privately owned company that specializes in speech-recognition technologies. Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said the acquisition will speed the company’s development of speech-recognition technologies for a wide range of products.

“People are on the go,” Raikes said. “They want to use their mobile devices. They want that productivity experience to carry over. They want the ability to use voice as a way to interface there, whether it is to access information, or whether to connect with colleagues.

“So we are going to look very broadly at how we can extend the great work that [Tellme Networks has] done more broadly in the Microsoft product line.”

Microsoft has implemented its own speech-recognition technologies in a variety of products, including Windows Vista and Exchange Server. But Raikes made it clear that Microsoft is intent on expanding the role of speech recognition, especially in its search tools.

“The research that we looked at…suggests that more than 35 percent of
mobile search users would be more likely to use search if voice were added,” Raikes said.

“We think of that as extending even beyond the mobile environment: how you interact with your television, how you interact with your automobile, how you interact with other computing devices,” he said.

Easier ERP systems upgrades
The worlds of enterprise resource planning and service-oriented architecture are coming together as three of the major vendors of ERP software move their platforms to ones that support Web services.

Oracle is introducing its Fusion platform, which updates the PeopleSoft HR software with Web services interfaces. Likewise, SAP has migrated its MySAP ERP software to a new Web services-based platform called Netweaver. It now offers all core functionality as Web services.

“We're going to expose every single element of our solution as a Web service,” said David Ditzel, director of public services technology solutions for the company.

In a similar move, CGI has migrated its federal ERP software, called Momentum, to a Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based platform.

ERP systems traditionally have been known as large, monolithic applications that tend to be difficult to install, maintain and upgrade. SOA promises to make software more responsive, namely by making it easy to reconfigure functions to meet changing needs.

A government agency might buy an ERP system “every 10 years or so,” said Heidi Green, who runs the ERP practice for CGI’s state and local group. A component-based approach could allow agencies to add new functionality over time “at a reasonable cost,” she said.

A better VPN in the offing
Virtual private networks that use Secure Sockets Layer encryption to create a secure tunnel have been gaining ground for some years on traditional VPNs, which typically use IPSec. One advantage of SSL is that because browsers already support SSL, it requires little or no additional client software, making it simpler to deploy, configure and maintain.

Array Networks is matching a feature that has been available on IPSec VPNs for a while — the ability to support secure connections among applications, hosts or networks at any location. Array’s new feature, called Site2Site, will be an add-on to its SPX series of SSL VPNs.

Jim Greenway, Array marketing’s vice president, said the company expects a lot of interest in Site2Site from government as a replacement for existing IPSec VPNs.

“We think there is a migration that is set to begin pretty soon.”

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