Commerce One unveils business integration software

Business-to-business pioneer Commerce One is tackling a new market: Web services-based application integration.

The Pleasanton, Calif., vendor got its start as an electronic marketplace specialist and later shifted its focus to procurement software. Now Commerce One aims to be an infrastructure provider. This week it unveiled Conductor, a set of development tools and templates for building composite services-based applications.

Conductor is designed to help users create and manage business processes that span disparate applications and connect a company with its customers and partners. Commerce One intends for the new platform to provide companies with an alternative to deploying multiple packaged applications for tasks such as business process management (BPM), enterprise application integration (EAI), portals and identity management.

At the core of the Conductor platform is Registry, a shared module for managing process changes. The Registry module defines all user and system interfaces as Web services. It also maintains definitions of user roles, systems, business processes, data schemas, transformation maps and security requirements. If a process or application changes, Registry communicates the new information to any affected applications.

Other elements of the Conductor platform include:

Interoperability Engine, which provides document-level interoperability across applications participating in a business process. It determines document formats, locations and security requirements as well as performs transformation, versioning and routing tasks. Process Manager, a run-time engine that executes a business process using the services accessed by the Interoperability Engine. Graphical Process Builder, which allows a business user to visually construct business processes from resources defined in the Registry. Design Suite, which provides tools for creating business processes and composite applications. Systems Management, which handles tasks including message tracking, component monitoring, installation, configuration, and initial data loading for participating services. As an extension to its Conductor platform, Commerce One plans to release pre-configured Process Accelerators – built by Commerce One and third-party software providers – that address common business processes such as invoice handling.

The launch of the Conductor platform subjects Commerce One to a raft of new competitors, including application infrastructure vendors IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc.; Web services-based middleware companies such as Iona Technologies PLC and Actional Corp.; BPM and workflow vendors such as Intalio Inc. and Oak Grove Systems Inc.; and integration specialists such as webMethods Inc. and Tibco Software Inc.

The company’s product overhaul follows two years of steadily declining sales and headcount. In January, Commerce One reported 2002 revenue of US$106 million, compared with 2001 revenue of $409 million. It has slashed its workforce from 2,800 employees in September 2001 to about 300 employees today.

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