Online Travel Boom Sparks Middleware Merger

FRAMINGHAM (04/28/2000) - The boom in the online travel industry has created a similar boom in the market for middleware that can link central reservations systems to easy-to-maintain Web sites.

Two of the leading vendors of middleware for travel-booking systems merged recently in hopes of dominating the market for booking engines.

Dublin-based Datalex Ltd. will absorb Portland, Oregon-based Sight & Sound Software Inc. The two companies have helped create Web sites for Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Inc. and the National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak.

The booking engines allow everyone from air carriers to retail chains to grab for a slice of the online travel pie, which Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. projects will be a $29 billion market in 2003.

Middleware, such as Sight & Sound's BookSmart and Datalex's BookIt, will be a key factor in that expansion, said Lorraine Sileo, on online-travel analyst at PhoCus Wright Inc. in Sherman, Conn.

"There's a lot of second- and third-tier players, international carriers, business-to-business operations and e-commerce sites (that) would like to add travel (services) that can take advantage of their products," Sileo said.

BookSmart can communicate with global reservation systems like Sabre, Amadeus and Worldspan, while plugging into a broad range of application servers such as IBM's WebSphere, Art Technology Group Inc.'s Dynamo or BroadVision Inc.'s One-to-One. Third-party integrators such as New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers have used the product to create online reservations systems - including one for Aer Lingus Group PLC in Dublin.

The new company will support both the BookIt and BookSmart products for the immediate future.

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