EAI players seek higher ground

As open standards and XML start to strip specialization from the lower end of the integration market, pressure-squeezed EAI companies are hunting the higher ground of BPI (business process integration).

At the recent Gartner Application Integration and Web Services Conference in Chicago, Vitria Technology Inc. will put its stake deeper into the BPI arena, overhauling its Businessware platform to emphasize a “solutions-based” approach to process modeling and life-cycle management.

Meanwhile, EAI stalwart Tibco Software Inc. in November is expected to release a beta of the next major version of its flagship ActiveEnterprise platform, which features a BPI component and which will be available in February 2003. Other EAI players such as webMethods Inc., SeeBeyond Technology Corp., and Sybase Inc. continue to build BPI capabilities into their integration suites.

The move to add higher-value capabilities to EAI middleware comes at a time when pressure is mounting from the market’s lower end. Sun on Monday plans to release its SunONE (Open Net Environment) Application Server 7, while Microsoft, which continues to build out integration server BizTalk, will announce on Tuesday the upcoming release of two “accelerators.” The accelerators are designed to provide out-of-the-box middleware to address the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s mandates and to ease pain points for financial-services companies tapping into the Swift network.

“[ EAI vendors] can no longer count on publish-and-subscribe and messaging solutions,” said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis. “They will have to move up the ladder with vertical solutions and other offerings that are higher value, not necessarily mass-market.”

Vitria’s Businessware Version 4.0, now out in limited release and to be made generally available in December, is designed for building integration process models that are holistic in nature, Vitria reported.

Instead of modeling individual bits and pieces of a process and then stitching them together, Businessware provides a framework to map a process from end to end for a top-down view of all steps in the execution of, for example, an STP (Straight Through Processing) transaction.

Version 4.0 allows developers to then define their integration models as components that can be invoked as a Web service or EJB. This eliminates arduous hand-coding of, for example, data transformation models, turning integration components into a type of service that can be reused, said Dale Skeen, CTO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Vitria.

Businessware is natively transport-independent, allowing processes to run on rival messaging platforms, including IBM’s MQSeries so that users can leverage their existing middleware assets, Skeen said.

“This is not about a broker with tools to convert a PeopleSoft document to an Oracle document,” Current Analysis’ Willett said. “It’s about creating processes that look like applications and go beyond the first generation to show depth and knowledge of a particular industry.”

Meanwhile, Sun’s SunONE Application Server Version 7 will integrate with the J2EE-based SunONE Portal Server 6 to deliver a business portal platform that integrates with SunONE Directory and Identity Servers to provide centralized policy, user management, and SSO (single sign-on) capabilities.

Paul Krill contributed to this article.