Tailoring E-Business Processes to Goals

SAN MATEO (07/03/2000) - I just came across an April 24 article that Test Center Director Maggie Biggs wrote concerning EAI (enterprise application integration). She wrote, "EAI vendors have done a good job of supporting data and application integration. And a few are going after business process integration. However, we need greater emphasis on supporting the latter" (see www.infoworld.com/printlinks).

Who are these few vendors in your view? I am interested in seeing what is available and what isn't available. Thank you.

Jonathan Madnick

Lori: EAI tools are driven by e-business, and many companies are planning to implement such a solution. The biggest driving factor for many of these businesses is how to integrate business process management.

Such tools are definitely a hot topic these days, and finding a solution to fit your needs can be a lengthy task. The leading vendors in this area are Software Technologies Corp. (www.stc.com), Constellar Corp. (www.constellar.com), and Viewlocity (www.viewlocity.com). Their solutions can run anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000. There are also many less expensive newcomers, such as Enterworks Inc.'s Enterworks Suite (www.enterworks.com) or Extricity Inc.'s Extricity Alliance (www.extricity.com). These solutions cost about $20,000 to $50,000.

However, buying and implementing one of these solutions is a task that you must take seriously and will want done correctly to help your business. I suggest going to some of the many Web sources to help you find a solution that fits your environment.

I found three sites that are extremely informative: At eai.ittoolbox.com you'll find an EAI information portal; messageq.com/eai _journal is an online EAI journal; and open itx.com is an information portal for sharing product information and discussions.

Brooks: Lori is right on here. I'd just like to emphasize that, as with many big projects, the software cost is often a small portion of the overall cost incurred. Of course, the idea is to increase efficiency, and many people have had great experiences with EAI. If you're considering implementing an EAI package, you should be sure to talk to other people who have implementations running in similar business situations -- not just in similar markets but in similar corporate cultures.

EAI is also a huge area, sort of like ERP (enterprise resource planning). It's young enough that different vendors often use different terminology. Make sure that you're getting the components you need and that you don't spend a ton of time and money implementing extraneous aspects of an EAI package that may not be applicable to your business.

Try to find people with both positive and negative experiences. It's great to hear from the people who had everything go smoothly, but you may benefit more from learning what not to do.

How do I set or configure the Shortcut Bars in Microsoft Corp. Office 2000? I had them in Office 97 but cannot establish them in the new Office. Thanks.


Lori: The problem here is that when Office 2000 is installed, the Shortcut Bar is not. Office 2000 will install the Office Shortcut Bar automatically when you try to select it from the Start menu, programs, or Microsoft Tools menu; or you can install it just by inserting the Office 2000 CD into the drive and opening the Office Shortcut Bar.

I'm having trouble deploying a videoconferencing solution. The idea is to connect two offices over the Internet and allow users to videoconference whenever they want to. I've tried NetMeeting and CUseeMe, and neither one works between offices. They both work fine in my office. The network administrator says the firewall is set up right.

E. Thompson

Brooks: Well, there's "set up right," and there's set up right. My guess is that you have firewall issues, or worse, NAT (network address translation) issues. Most videoconferencing solutions use H.323, a notoriously funky protocol that was developed for use via phone lines, not networks. The problem is that H.323 requires reverse connections, and many firewalls don't like that.

Worse, if you're using NAT you may need special patches for your firewall -- something firewall administrators aren't usually wild about.

And even then if you're using NAT, you may find that you can have only one conference going on at a time because the firewall basically has to accept H.323 connections and forward them to a single workstation on the network. It's not a pretty picture.

I'd check with your vendors. Both Microsoft and White Pine/CUseeMe have extensive documentation about configuring firewalls to work with their packages.

Brooks Talley is senior business and technology architect for InfoWorld.com.

Lori Mitchell is a senior analyst in the Test Center. Send your questions for them to testcenter_rx@infoworld.com.

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