SeeBeyond looks to boost B-to-B integration

EAI stalwart SeeBeyond Technology Corp. is making moves around its business-to-business integration software, with a number of enhancements coming next month followed by a full upgrade of the product by the first quarter of 2003.

Business Integration Suite 4.5.3, slated to be available in two weeks, adds more open standards support to its eXchange Partner Manager for vertical industry specifications such as healthcare's HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and NCPDP (National Council for Prescription Drugs Program), and for the AS2 security specification for conducting EDI transfers over the Internet, according to officials at the Monrovia, Calif.-based company.

The point upgrade also sports a variety of new ease-of-use features, including improved event scheduling, exception handling, and performance monitoring -- all aimed at more effective automation, officials said.

Another enhancement eliminates more of the manual coding required for business process automation, replacing it with visual mapping capabilities that can be manipulated by business analysts via drag and drop. Meanwhile, a new JMS (Java Message Service) message-order timing feature aims to trim development time by ensuring that Java-based messages are handled in the correct order, regardless of when they are received.

"What we are continuing to do here is reduce the amount of coding needed, [and] focus on the graphical user interfaces and on prepackaging more integrations out of the box," said Kate Mitchell, senior vice president of marketing at SeeBeyond.

Looking forward to the next version of Business Integration Suite, tentatively named 5.0, SeeBeyond will be accelerating its blessing of both the J2EE and .Net platforms, as well as adding Web services standards support for UDDI. The integration platform already supports SOAP and WSDL.

The new version, which the company expects to make available by the end of the first quarter next year, will also feature a toolkit for users to custom-design support for the open and proprietary b-to-b protocols and message libraries of their choice. SeeBeyond's eXchange Partner Manager currently provides out-of-the-box support for mainstream e-business standards such as RosettaNet.

"But there are hundreds of other message libraries that customers want to deploy, however, and we can't productize all of those," Mitchell said. The upcoming toolkit will give users the ability to set up those protocols unique to their business, and pre-package and distribute them to their trading partners via eXchange Partner Manager, she added.

Lastly, the revamp of Business Integration Suite will extend the management and monitoring interfaces of the solution so they can be better used in a Web-based environment, Mitchell said.

SeeBeyond, currently the No. 3 EAI vendor behind Tibco and webMethods, is struggling like most companies in the applications integration space, particularly those heavily invested in expensive proprietary technology, according to analysts. As such, they face increasing competition from Java-based application server vendors such as BEA and IBM, which have added integration servers to their stacks, as well as from Microsoft with its BizTalk Server.

"SeeBeyond recognizes that it needs to continue to transition to open standards to compete with app server vendors and Microsoft, who are building links from their development tools to their integration platforms," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis. "They need to make it easier for users to access their platform."

Willett said that focusing on vertical industry-specific solutions will continue unabated for SeeBeyond and other EAI vendors, as technologies such as Web services threaten to simplify and reduce the cost of more basic, horizontal application integration.

In the fourth quarter of this year, SeeBeyond will roll out several prepackaged business process templates and toolkits for Business Integration Suite 4.5.3, addressing such things as changes in the SWIFT messaging standard in the financial industry, UCCNET, and Straight Through Processing.

The vertical industry solutions are a positive note in the current economic downturn, according to Mitchell.

"CIOs rate integration as a top priority right now, but they are not motivated to go out and make major horizontal investments," Mitchell said. "But what we are seeing is business people [are] seeing the benefits to a key vertical process that takes the cost out of something."

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