Middleware Vendors Bolster B-to-B App Integration

SAN MATEO (04/14/2000) - As participants in Internet trading exchanges find that they need application integration as well as exchange-to-exchange links, EAI (enterprise application integration) and e-business integration providers such as Tibco Software Inc., Vitria Technology Inc., and ObjectSpace Inc. are responding.

The business-to-business exchange phenomenon "is a full employment act for middleware players," said Lisa Williams, an analyst at The Yankee Group, a market research firm in Boston. The complexity of back-end application integration "requires a lot of heavy lifting," she said.

A publish-and-subscribe pioneer among EAI vendors, Tibco next week is set to release ActiveExchange, a product set for closing the loop on b-to-b transactions.

Built on the Tibco ActiveEnterprise suite of EAI components, now in Version 3.0, the ActiveExchange group includes both the TIB/BusinessConnect and TIB/BusinessPartner offerings.

TIB/BusinessConnect is a b-to-b integration server targeted at business partners and intermediaries. It can be used to automate the scheduling of b-to-b transactions. The TIB/BusinessConnect server includes the TIB/Rendezvous publish-and-subscribe messaging middleware and HTTP for real-time connectivity.

Expected to be available during the second quarter of 2000, the server supports FTP, SMTP, and Web browser-based access.

The TIB/BusinessPartner module, also expected during the second quarter, supports scheduled and on-the-fly transactions and converts XML documents into flat-file and relational-database formats, officials said.

Tibco rival Vitria Technology will be announcing next week its Trading Partner Network (TPN), Vitria's clearinghouse of sorts for exchange users who need to find Internet Service Providers as well as create connections among exchanges, said Malcolm Lewis, director of marketing strategy at Vitria.

"You've got all these hubs that meet some but not all of the users' requirements," Lewis said. Access to the TPN, which is not a physical network, will be controlled via a registry that Vitria will own, and will only be available to TPN members.

Vitria will also offer its BusinessWare software as well as security, business logging, and related services.

Product and service providers from the telecom, financial services, and health care industries will take part in TPN, as will customers and system integrators, Lewis said.

The requirements for entry are an annual subscription fee, agreements to use the same data format and system-to-system connectivity, and the same software platform, such as Vitria's BusinessWare -- although that in particular is not required.

"We see this as the next step," Lewis said, explaining that individual trading communities are looking for "an easy way to link into multiple exchanges."

Although not strictly an EAI player, ObjectSpace this week will release its line of OpenBusiness products to compete in the b-to-b exchange realm. The OpenBusiness Portal and Gateway leverage object middleware and XML to let businesses expose a service or business process over the Internet to another business. The technology is targeted particularly at trading exchanges.

"There's great efficiency in matching RFPs [requests for proposals] to quotes, but exchanges don't automate the fulfillment of that quote. You still need to drive [the integration] down to the delivery, invoice, and contract [levels of the applications]," said Bruce Flory, vice president of marketing at ObjectSpace.

Tibco Software Inc., in Palo Alto, California, is at www.tibco.com. Vitria Technology Inc., in Sunnyvale, California, is at www.vitria.com. ObjectSpace Inc., in Dallas, is at www.objectspace.com.

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