ChannelManager 2.0 Beta
Push content on an intranet
By Mariva H. Aviram
c|net, February 19, 1998

It may take some time to wrap your mind around ChannelManager 2.0, the new intranet-content management tool from DataChannel. ChannelManager is a complex product with lots of pieces, including a database, a server, and a Java client. But if you need to control large amounts of content sent to several users over an intranet, you may find ChannelManager worth the effort.

With this program, you can organize intranet content into channels. For instance, if each department in your company has a Web page, ChannelManager can arrange the pages' content in a database and then distribute the information via a Web server. In fact, anything with a URL can be turned into a channel, from plain old HTML files and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to NNTP-based newsgroups, Web-based email, and Java-based chat applets.

This information arrives on your browser via ChannelManager's Java-based client. (ChannelManager can also publish data to an Active Desktop or an HTML client.) Simply point your Web browser (Navigator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x) to the URL for ChannelServer, the server-side software; type your user ID and password; choose the client type (HTML, Java, or Active Desktop); and voilà--the content appears. The system administrator decides which channels you receive. For example, a company's marketing department might get competitors' press releases and related news clips, while engineering might get new specifications and product plans.

Currently, ChannelServer runs only on a Windows NT 4.0 server, but DataChannel plans to release a version for Solaris soon. One nice thing about the ChannelManager/Windows NT 4.0 combination is that when a system administrator creates a new user on the NT server, ChannelServer automatically reads the username and offers the option of configuring the person as a ChannelManager user.

The database behind ChannelServer can be Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, or Microsoft Access. If you already have the database installed and running, then getting ChannelServer going is a breeze. Just set up your users, create some initial channels using the fill-in-the-blank template system, establish group and user permissions, and you're ready to roll.

This simplicity and power come at a substantial cost, however--ChannelManager's price starts at $20,000 for 200 users. The hardware demands are also pretty steep: you need a fairly powerful server (a Pentium with 64MB of RAM) to run ChannelServer and its accompanying database engine.

We tested the ChannelManager 2.0 Beta on a Pentium-120 with 16MB of RAM and found a few glitches. The Java client was painfully slow and crashed often; there was no way to preview a channel template other than through the client; and we couldn't alter certain security settings. With any luck, these issues will be ironed out prior to final release.

Although ChannelManager lacks polish, it does show lots of potential as a powerful content-management tool for corporate intranets

ChannelManager 2.0 Beta: Direct price: $20,000 for a 200-user license; or download the beta for free (DataChannel Inc., 425/462-1999)

Pentium, 64MB RAM, 256-color VGA display, 60MB disk space, Windows NT, Navigator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x, Web server, relational database management server

Pentium, 64MB RAM, 256-color VGA display, 60MB disk space, Unix, Navigator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x, Web server, relational database management server

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