E-Speak creators launch Confluent

The former leaders of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s e-Speak development team on Tuesday will launch a new company, Confluent, that aims to tackle the integration and management of Web services.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Confluent, which has been operating in "stealth mode" since 2001 under the name Corporate Oxygen, is led by Rajid Gupta, one of the individuals who spearheaded HP's e-Speak beginning in 1998.

Widely credited as first out of the gate on Web services, HP with its pioneer e-Speak technology provided a way to automate business processes and other services over the Internet, via a loosely coupled, services-oriented architecture. In the ensuing years, however, HP failed to capitalize on the technology and e-Speak slowly faded into the backdrop behind Microsoft Corp. and other companies that leapt ahead with .Net and J2EE Web services strategies.

Eventually, in the throes finalizing its mega-merger with Compaq Computer Corp., HP abandoned e-Speak along with the rest of its middleware strategy and products this past year.

Gupta, who left HP in 2001, said he learned from mistakes made on the e-Speak project and has carried the lessons over into the development of Confluent's integration and management platform for Web services.

"e-Speak was so focused on technology that it was quite a marvel in architecture," Gupta said. "But we didn't pay any attention to usability and solving business problems. It was too complex."

At Confluent, Gupta said the focus will not rest on the development side of Web services, leaving that end of the equation to the J2EE application server vendors and Microsoft, with whom the startup plans to partner. Instead, the company's Core platform is designed to lash disparate Web services together and then manage and monitor them in the context of an architecture that touches myriad systems in the enterprise.

The goal is to provide users a dashboard-like console view for measuring Web services' performance at the level of a business process.

"Before we wrote any Confluent code, we spoke with hundreds of CIOs to see their pain points," Gupta said. "They told us that they all love the promise of a loosely coupled world, but said that they won't go there until they have control and visibility."

IT executives said they wanted to be able to guarantee the performance level of Web services, in addition to other quality-of-service musts such as service-level agreements and security management, auditing, logging, change management, and aspects of problem diagnosis and root cause analysis, Gupta said.

The Core platform consists of three pieces. Core Integrator is the integration server for bringing together Web services. It serves as an active, intelligent router that handles load balancing and enforces specified policies for change management, logging, and authentication of particular users of Web services.

Core Manager provides the dashboard component to help users measure service levels, conduct root-cause analysis, and do such things as click-though and drill into why a process did not complete in time.

For its part, Core Analyzer enables users to specify exception conditions for particular business processes; for example, that the CFO be notified via e-mail when the total volume of purchase orders exceeds a specified dollar amount.

The Analyzer piece of the platform represents Confluent's bow to the business activity monitoring trend, which brings together application integration and business intelligence for real-time monitoring of business processes. Last week, Tibco detailed its business activity monitoring strategy, which leverages its recent acquisition of business activity monitoring pure-play Praja. Likewise, webMethods Inc. signed a deal with Informatica Corp. in July to deliver similar capabilities.

One of Confluent's customers, Lifetime Fitness, is hoping to leverage the analytics capabilities of the platform to improve selling opportunities across its health clubs that are located across the country, Gupta said. Lifetime is using Confluent's Core to implement a Web services architecture that integrates three internal systems into a portal where they track customer preferences and demographics.

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