Antarctica warms to federal market

Antarctica Systems Inc. officials plan to sell the company's data visualization product to federal agencies through an alliance with Mandex Inc., an engineering and integration services firm.

The partnership, announced May 27, marks Antarctica Systems' formal entry into the government market. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company began dabbling in the government market late last year, briefing military information technology officials on its Visual Net software.

Visual Net enables users to navigate large information databases through a map-like interface, rather than receiving text-oriented search results. The third version of Visual Net was released in January.

Visual Net "provides a visual user interface to a shared information space," said Tim Bray, Antarctica Systems' founder and chief technology officer. Search and retrieval and business intelligence are among the applications in which Visual Net can play a role, according to the company.

Antarctica Systems' initial foray into the federal sector was encouraging, Bray said. "We encountered some considerable interest from people in the [Defense Department]," he said, noting three visits to Fort Monroe, Va., since December. But company officials decided it would be easier to pursue federal customers through a local service provider than on their own. As a result, the company forged an alliance with Fairfax, Va.-based Mandex, which will promote Visual Net to the federal government buyers.

Geoffrey Bock, senior vice president at the Patricia Seybold Group Inc., said visualization technology depends on the underlying structure of the data being visualized. Most visualization products, until recently, have been based on relational data stored in tables. The result, according to Bock, has been "pretty pictures of static information."

Visual Net, however, employs Extensible Markup Language (XML), which provides a "self-describing information source that is very flexible and much more adaptable than other ways of representing information," Bock said.

Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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