When Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cyclone Commerce Inc. describes its business-to-business e-commerce niche, one gets a strong sense of déjà vu. The challenges of integrating business partners' network infrastructures and business processes sound identical to those of the enterprise application integration (EAI) world. For both, they boil down to bridging differences among systems.
That's exactly what Cyclone does with its flagship product, Cyclone Interchange, which launched in January. Interchange lets supply-chain partners securely exchange purchase orders, invoices and other documents over the Internet, avoiding expensive value-added networks (VAN).
Partners can exchange documents in incompatible formats such as XML and electronic data interchange (EDI). Interchange uses an open, Java-based architecture and has EAI-like connectors that handle translations.
Cyclone Commerce offers Interchange as a product and as a hosted service. The latter delivers "instant B2B infrastructure," says CEO Kent Petzold. "We have customers that deploy our product in under two hours," adds David Bennett, the company's founder and chief technology officer.
Cyclone's customers tout Interchange's ease of setup and quick return on investment. ExpressBill in Scottsdale, Ariz. (recently acquired by Atlanta-based health care giant Healtheon/WebMD Corp.), prints and mails statements for doctors' offices and hospitals that transmit insurance claims via EDI. The company offers Interchange to customers that are gearing up for new privacy and security requirements.
Mike Mayberry, director of systems and technology, uses Interchange to ensure that the proper file-level encryption and digital signatures are available to all members of customers' trading communities. ExpressBill installed Cyclone Interchange Enterprise Edition about six months ago and has one customer site so far.
Mayberry says he considered competitors, but Interchange seemed more comprehensive and scalable. He says he's impressed with the speed of installation and overall design. "I can install the thing myself," Mayberry says. "As an engineer, architecture is very important to me, and [Cyclone Commerce] spent a lot of time architecting this product."
SciQuest.com Inc., an electronic exchange for scientific supplies in Research Triangle Park, N.C., used Interchange to quickly connect some of its 700 suppliers and more than 80 enterprise customers. "We wanted something that would be easy for the buyer and seller to install," says Karen Hiser, director of e-commerce integration. It also wanted to improve the efficiency of order processing, much of it done via fax, EDI and XML.
In the Works
Hiser says she would like to see some improvements. She had problems getting Interchange to work with her IBM MQSeries middleware and wants clustering and fail-over support and document preprocessing. Cyclone says those features are in the works. But Interchange paid for itself early on in VAN savings alone, Hiser says, and SciQuest.com now offers it as part of its standard integration package.
Cyclone's prospects are bolstered by an impressive list of partners that use Interchange in their e-commerce offerings. The firm has a multimillion-dollar deal with Sterling Commerce Inc. in Dallas and GE Information Services Inc.
(GEIS) in Gaithersburg, Md., which co-markets Interchange and uses Internet EDI technology from Cyclone Commerce in its GEIS Enterprise System messaging gateway.
Cyclone plans a new release this month. Interchange nTier will support Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Enterprise JavaBeans, include process-modeling and workflow tools and add finer control over software objects.
Although he won't reveal revenue, Petzold predicts that his company will be profitable within the next year and a half.
The company's biggest challenge, Petzold says, is to make itself heard amid the "market noise" of business-to-business e-commerce.
Customers "tend to gravitate toward the people who are getting mind share and the people who are promising to deliver, while we tend to deliver on promises," he says. "If we can get evaluated, we'll win."
Cyclone Commerce Inc.
Location: 17767 N. Perimeter Drive, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85255Telephone: (480) 627-1800Web: www. cyclonecommerce.comNiche:
- Business-to-business supply-chain document exchange over the InternetWhy it's worth watching:
- Its Java-enabled interoperability and quick installation could give information technology managers a competitive jump on setting up trading communities.
- Kent Petzold, CEO
- David Bennett, founder and chief technology officerMilestones:
- 1996: Founded
- 1999: First product sold
- January 2000: Commerce Interchange releasedEmployees:
- 100; 125% quarterly growth rate
- Angel investors; $20 million round of venture financing under wayProducts/pricing:
- Cyclone Interchange Enterprise Edition starts at $450,000; a version for trading partners costs $1,200 per year.
- CyclonePowered.Net outsourced network services; pricing variesCustomers:
- SciQuest.com, ExpressBill, Airborne Freight Corp., Anheuser-Busch Cos. and othersPartners:
- Sterling Commerce, GEIS, The ViaLink Co. and othersRed flag for IT:
- Competition looms from indirect competitors in the business-to-business market, whose offerings are more comprehensive, - and from EIA vendors repositioning themselves for the business-to-business marketplace.
Essex is a freelance writer in Antrim, N.H.