Scotts Valley Firm: FedEx for the Internet 

SCOTTS VALLEY - Alcatel, a French modem manufacturer, faced recalling 1.3 million modems earlier this year after finding they were vulnerable to hacker attacks. Nokia faced a similar dilemma after discovering millions of its cell phones were not operable with the third-generation networks that carriers started using this year. 

This spring, TiVo owners complained of a stuttering with their video recorders after a software upgrade. 

"Software has bugs in it, always," said Kerry Benthall, chief marketing officer for Synchron Networks in Scotts Valley. "There is no such thing as a bug-free program." 

  Benthall would receive little argument from most computer users, which is probably why the executive is feeling so confident these days. 

Synchron Networks claims it has solved what has been an expensive problem for many high-tech firms. Everserve, its first product, to be released next month, can deliver, update and patch software to network devices. The product could make expensive recalls a thing of the past. 

"We have software that delivers software," said Benthall. "We're kind of the FedEx for the Internet." 

Benthall said Everserve also may bring the end of the practice known as sneakernet. That is, the slow process of user manpower to upgrade systems one by one. Instead, with just a few clicks, Everserve is simple to use and can send out thousands of messages at once and report back on whether the upgrades were successful. 

As an example, Benthall said some large firms, such as banks, may have 10 or 20 desktops in each branch and thousands of branches. There may be one person in charge of 50 desktops who spends 75 percent of the time conducting software upgrades. 

"When you have massive amounts of devices employed remotely our product makes a lot of sense," he said. 

The executive should know. He recalls the days when he was Internet technology structure manager for Exodus and 85,000 servers had to be upgraded one at a time. That process would take just 10 minutes with Everserve, he said. 

Synchron Networks claims it is the first company out with such a cross platform delivery mechanism. While other companies, such as Microsoft, have built similar delivery mechanisms they have been limited to the developer's particular brands. Synchron designed Everserve for volume and without prejudice to a particular manufacturer. 

Benthall said there is no limit to the size of the package it can deliver. The firm already has tested the product with packages as large as 500 megs. 

The first version of Everserve will work for servers and desktops, specifically Windows 2000, NT and Solaris. However, Synchron will expand Everserve soon to use with the coming third generation (3G) of mobile phone technology, which offers high-speed Web access, streaming video and teleconferencing. 

The 3G phones, like DSL modems, always will be on, offering providers the ability to send applications at any time. Benthall said using Everserve will be as easy as the cable company turning on a Pay-Per-View channel. 

"The market is wide open for someone who can deliver a secure reliable solution," said Benthall. "Our vision is our software will be on every device on the planet." 

It is no coincidence Synchron announced the addition of Kevin Kennedy, chief operating officer of Openwave, to its board of directors last fall. Openwave is the world's largest provider of mobile Internet software. 

Synchron also announced it received its second round of funding, $10 million, earlier this month. 

  Everserve is the brainstorm of Carl Fravel, who founded Synchron Networks in 1999 and now serves as president. Previously, Fravel was senior development manager at Borland, which is located in the same complex as Synchron at Enterprise Way. 

Many of the 30 Synchron employees also worked at Borland at one time. 

Synchron also announced it received its second round of funding, $10 million, in early January. 

Synchron believes its product could unleash a rise in venture capital for other firms as well. 

"All software developers can now release their products without fear," said Benthall. "And the good news about our software is that it can improve bugs in our own software as well." 

Santa Cruz Sentinel, January 27, 2002, by Michael Iacuessa, photos by  Dan Coyro