EAI software shifts to business-process management

Once limited to use by a few highly trained technicians, enterprise application integration (EAI) is maturing into a broadly useful tool for IT.

Sylvain Pendaries, director of IT for capital markets at the New York-based arm of French bank Societe Generale Group, has seen EAI grow up since his first encounter with Tibco Software's Rendezvous product in 1996.

"It took care of transport, but that was mainly a tool for technicians," Pendaries said.

Societe Generale now plans to migrate to Tibco's latest EAI management tool with an eye toward making it a working part of every employee's life.

"It's far more than a collection of systems linked with middleware; it's more of a business information network," he said.

According to Daryl Plummer, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., EAI vendors are attempting to evolve their products into business-process management tools that let nontechnical workers adjust inputs and outputs in order to make changes in a system without having to touch any code.

"It's not there yet. But is that the plan? Is that the direction? Is that the next step? I'd have to say yes," Plummer said. "It's moving up the food chain, so to speak."

Cynthia Pacheco, operations manager for e-care services at Philips Medical Systems North America Inc. in Bothell, Wash., a division of Royal Philips Electronics NV, is looking to next-generation EAI products from Cysive Inc. in Reston, Va.

Philips Medical sells and leases in-home cardiac monitoring devices to chronic care facilities and in-home congestive heart failure patients.

Because many of the devices get recycled, Pacheco said, the initial use for the Cysive product would be to co-manage supply chain order tracking and patient care information.

However, future iterations of the application may be most important as the company adds medical personnel and hospital administrators to the network.

"These aren't technical people. Ease of use is a big issue for us," Pacheco said.

Andrea Eubanks, Tibco's director of products, acknowledged that the market is shifting.

"It's no longer about competitive advantage," she said. "The users now want more business use and less reliance on the network guys."

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