The middleware ties that bind

Three mouse clicks and packaged applications can be transformed into enterprise Web services -- that's the appeal of the latest iteration of webMethods' application integration software.

"The webMethods integration platform provides out-of-the-box functionality that enables customers to deploy enterprise Web services with three clicks of the mouse and no coding required."

"This means that enterprises will be able to create Web services from any existing application including customized, legacy, mainframe, databases and legacy applications," said Thomas N. Erickson, senior vice president, Asia-Pacific of webMethods.

WebMethods is an enterprise application integration (EAI) vendor whose middleware lets customers write a single interface between each application and the middleware, which then acts as a message broker between applications.

By integrating various applications, organizations are able to get the global view on how everything stands with customers and suppliers. This transparency and ability to manipulate information extends from management to users, and severely impacts decision making and business forecasting, said Erickson.

"The company's Web services approach combines support of common protocols such as simple object application protocol and Web services description language with management capabilities, transactional integrity and security features required for enterprise level security," said Erickson who spoke to Computerworld when he was in town recently for customer meetings.

EAI is an area that has been underestimated but it plays a crucial role in today's customer relationship management rollouts.

According to research organization IDC, the integration software market will grow to be a US$10 billion industry by 2004.

"Customers today want to be able to achieve quantifiable return-on-investment by linking their business processes, enterprise and legacy applications, databases and workflow applications both within and across enterprises. By deploying an integration platform, customers can reduce costs, create new revenue opportunities, strengthen relationships with customers, substantially increase supply chain efficiencies and streamline internal business processes," said Erickson.

In fact, ROI can be achieved within time frames of between ten weeks to about 18 months, depending on the type of deployment.

For example, in an enterprise CRM implementation, it is important to tie together customer, product and fulfillment information contained in back-end systems.

Partner collaboration In the meantime, companies such as SAP, i2 Technologies, Siebel Systems and BMC Software are working with webMethods to embed its technology into their applications.

For example, BMC Software, an enterprise management software vendor, introduced Patrol for webMethods, a comprehensive management product developed specifically to manage webMethods' mission-critical integration platform. This provides optimization and management of the webMethods integration platform, ensuring proactive management to prevent transaction failure and downtime, according to Mary Smars, vice president, Enterprise eBusiness Management, BMC Software.

Target segments for webMethods' platform include manufacturing, financial services and government.

WebMethods has approximately 750 customers worldwide including companies such as Citibank, Dell, Eastman Chemical, The Ford Motor Company and Motorola.

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