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Catalyst show to highlight 'virtual enterprise'

The virtual enterprise will get star treatment at this week's Burton Catalyst Conference.

This year's Burton Catalyst Conference North America, which begins Wednesday in San Francisco, will focus on the multiple strategies necessary to achieve a virtual enterprise.

Companies are being driven in this direction by the efficiencies and business advantages that can be gained from enabling broad-based access to all company systems, said Jamie Lewis, CEO of Burton Group, the Midvale, Utah-based research firm sponsoring the event.

But the road to this goal is not simple. Enabling secure access and managing passwords and access privileges is a challenge. Companies face a barrage of regulations, from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in health care to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in financial services to more obscure ones in the pharmaceutical industry, Lewis said.

The conference has three tracks focused on the various elements required to move to the virtual enterprise.

Networking is a key element of the virtual enterprise. This track will focus on security and will include sessions on the future of the firewall and perimeter security. Emerging technologies such as voice over Internet Protocol and Wi-Fi will also receive attention.

Identity management is also becoming a central part of the virtual enterprise, especially as more employees and partners access a broader range of data from a growing number of devices and locations. It is also an area where many companies can realize significant savings, Lewis said. By enabling systems that allow employees to manage their own passwords, some companies have cut the total number of calls to the help desk by 30%, Lewis said.

Provo, Utah-based Novell Inc. plans to announce a new addition to its Nsure security identity management product. Critical Path Inc. of San Francisco will also announce a new password management product, as will OpenNetwork Technologies Inc., of Clearwater, Fla., and others.

Web services will be another area of focus. At the conference, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a consortium of vendors that advocates for standards, will give the first demonstration of Service Provisioning Markup Language (SPML). The XML-based language is designed to allow companies to exchange user rights and information across multiple networks.

Burton Group expects about 1,400 people to attend its conference, a number similar to last year's event.

Twenty-six vendors will be attending the show, and Lewis expects announcements from market leaders such as IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp.


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