Behind the scenes – Dekoh; Interview with Vijay Pullur

SaaS (software as a service) applications are now a “no-brainer” alternative to many enterprise applications.  Consumers and business users both are very comfortable using SaaS applications. In fact, there are many companies that are actively moving their current enterprise implementations to SaaS based offerings. However, there are situations where it would be beneficial to have offline access to parts of the application.

Here are a few examples to demonstrate the usefulness of offlining:
1. Access to your customers, prospects and opportunities on the go.
2. Access to a product configuration engine offline – so that the sales person is empowered to create a quote offline.
3. Ability to provide survey participants an option to fill out a survey offline and sync. Up the answers.

Dekoh is a product that can enable this and more. Here is a quick interview with Vijay Pullur (blog: Software (Ad)venturing) , one of the founders of Pramati (the company behind Dekoh)

1. RS: Vijay, you have a fascinating story having founded one of the leading product development companies (Pramati) out of India. Please tell us about your journey so far?

Vijay: I and my brother Jay started Pramati in 1998 in India, goal was to build world-class products leveraging India’s strengths namely low-cost and great talent availability. The journey has been very satisfying and exciting one. We have built products that out-perform the biggest and best names in the industry. Our flagship product Pramati server competes with products from BEA, IBM and Oracle. Our recent product Dekoh is in RIA space, competing against Adobe’s Apollo product. We have two simple goals

1.  Build products that our customers love.
2.  In the markets we compete we should be innovating faster than our competitors.

That gives us a kick. We are very proud of it.

2. RS: What is the need for a product like Dekoh in the marketplace today?

Vijay: Dekoh is a Rich Internet Application and Social Media platform on the desktop. Today desktop and web applications work as silos. Look-n-Feel, installation, access and technologies used to develop these applications are very different. Dekoh bridges the gap between desktop and the web. The “Rich” in RIA refers to richness in user interface (Flash and AJAX), richness in functionality (desktop and web) and richness in availability (online and offline). Providing a seamless user experience for applications on desktop and web in both connected and disconnected mode is the goal. This is the next frontier for internet applications.

3. RS: Adobe has Apollo and Google just announced Google Gears. How does Dekoh compare against these offerings?

Vijay: There are several approaches to solving the problem. Each one attacks the problem from their natural strengths. Adobe Apollo is a runtime that allows developers to applications on the desktop using web technologies like HTML, AJAX and Flex.

Dekoh supports these and more web technologies like JSP, Servlets on the desktop. The key difference are in 2 areas. Web has moved on from 1.0 to 2.0, supporting just HTML, AJAX and Flash is not enough. Dekoh addresses this hole which Adobe has left. Dekoh is a social media platform on the desktop bringing web 2.0 functions like sharing, tagging, commenting, rating and RSS to the desktop. The second difference is Apollo applications run outside the browser, more like desktop applications. We at Dekoh believe that users are very familiar and they like using browser as the client and that should be honored. Dekoh applications run inside the browser.

Now talking about Google gears, it is about making certain functionality of web applications offline by re-writing them. It is not a desktop platform. For example Google gears application cannot show you local filesystem to pick a directory. Google gears is targeted at more Javascript heavy applications.

4. RS: You mentioned about offlining parts of a SaaS application for one of your clients. What was the need and how did Dekoh fit in there?

Vijay:  Thanks to the torch bearer SaaS applications have become mainstream in enterprises. Unfortunately, world has not moved that fast to provide ubiquitous anywhere/anytime internet connectivity. Depending on the nature of the job connectivity varies. People who travel very frequently are the worst hit. Due to this access and availability of SaaS applications become intermittent. Dekoh has developed several key components to partition application and data of SaaS applications and to install the application on users desktop in one-click. Once this is done, the user continues to access the application and modify the data in a disconnected offline mode. We have a sync module that will synchronize data back to central server when the desktop connects back. The utility and user experience for SaaS applications get significantly enhanced with such offline functionality.

5. RS: Why should developers be excited about your platform?

Vijay: Dekoh is a open source platform. It is built using open technologies like Java, AJAX etc. It is very easy for developers to write applications on Dekoh. No new technologies or tools need to be learnt in order to write applications on Dekoh platform. As an icing on the cake Dekoh brings in exciting web 2.0 features to the desktop, developers can write applications and show them off to their network of friends and family right from their computers.

6. RS: Life is going on fine without Dekoh or Apollo or Google Gears. Some people may say you have a solution waiting for a problem. Your comments?

Vijay: Think about it, people said the same about telephones! I am not saying Dekoh is comparable in proportions to that, but Dekoh offers some unique features that can dramatically improve web experience of users. Offline is only one part of the story. The bigger thing about Dekoh, is it can change the request-response model of the web. For example, today users have to manually click to go to a website and look at new information or use the service. Dekoh can help users make time on the internet more productive by pulling content on their behalf. For online services, this is a platform to provide valuable user specific information even when the user is not on their site. This is a new paradigm.

7. RS: What were the challenges in developing this product? Now, that the product is out, what are the challenges you are facing in bringing it to the marketplace?

Vijay: The biggest challenge for us was to package technology components into an end-user friendly, zero maintenance bundle. Once we got past this hurdle, we are seeing so many possibilities of putting this technology to use. The challenge ahead of us is much tougher one, to showcase and tell the story to the audience. To build a larger community of users and developers.

8. RS: On the product front, you seem to be ahead of both Apollo and Google Gears. However, the other products are from Gorillas in the marketplace. How do you plan to compete with the size? What kind of help are you looking from the community (developers and users)

Vijay: Yes. We are well ahead of the competition. With all things we are currently working on, I am confident the gap is going to get wider. I agree we are the David fighting the Goliath. Technical superiority, innovation, nimbleness and most importantly our openness (open standards based technology, open source software and open mind to listen to our users) has started to create the positive word of mouth. It is just matter of time when mindshare is going to overtake muscle power (think what was Google when they launched their search engine).

We have created a platform that developers can use to write applications without learning any new proprietary technologies or tools. Whatever they write on the desktop can be shared and shown to their friends network. We want to hear from developers their experiences to enhance the platform. We have created several personal media applications for end users to use. We hope people enjoy organizing their media, sharing with friends. Any new ideas for applications can be shared on new ideas forum on, some developers may pick up the idea and turn it into reality. Dekoh gallery will showcase applications.

9. RS: What is in the horizon for Dekoh? Where are you planning to take this Vijay?

Vijay: We have tried to create useful value to developers by opening the platform. We have written several media and utility applications for end users to use and enjoy networking with their friends. We will continue to build on this. Dekoh is a good platform for online services/websites to create a desktop presence. Similarly, SaaS applications can leverage our platform to make their services available anywhere/anytime (literally).