Parlay speaks the right language for legacy systems

The key benefit of Information Builders (Canada) Inc.’s (IBI) new Parlay application integration server lies in its ability to integrate with legacy systems, according to a number of analysts.

Parlay is a 100 per cent Java application server designed to support the integration of high performance Java applications with enterprise-class systems and data, including IBM CICS and IMS/TM-based transaction systems, IBM MQSeries-based systems and operational data residing in over 80 proprietary database management systems and files.

In addition, Parlay integrates with CORBA 2.0-based and Microsoft COM-based distributed applications and offers support for more than 12 platforms, including Solaris, Windows NT, HP-UX, OS/390, Linux, Open VMS, AS/400, AIX, Digital Unix and more.

“We provide all the services that you would find in either a proprietary or an enterprise Java bean-based server: load balancing, fault tolerance, scalability, multi-threading, connection-pooling, etc., and we’re an integration server through the development of our server-side Java beans,” said Keith Wimberley, general manager of the components technology division at Information Builders in New York.

Parlay’s server-side enterprise Java beans are available for IBM MQSeries, TN3270, CICS, IMS and IBI’s EDA.

According to Jim Sinur, research director with Boston-based Gartner Group, “that’s important because now you can integrate legacy transactions and that is a crucial piece…the notion of being able to reach back to the legacy base is strong. There’s a big investment out there.”

Sinur said while everyone wants to be a “Java geek these days” and move forward in their technology, the reality is there are a lot of valuable, older systems still around that represent a significant asset.

Dan Kara, senior vice-president and CTO of Intermedia Group in Westborough, Mass., agreed. “After spending untold billions fixing these things for Y2K, to go off and kind of forget about them doesn’t make any sense.”

That said, the ability to integrate with legacy systems and their applications is not widely available. The case with most vendors offering integration, Kara said, is that “some of them are only now actually accessing relational databases.”

And although “the enterprise starts at the servers basically, most of the application server vendors out there kind of forget it. They assume you’re going to be building new applications…but that’s not the case at all. Almost everything you build has to integrate with existing things and that usually means legacy systems somehow.”

IBI’s Wimbereley said it was also important that Parlay provide integration to both CORBA- and COM-based applications.

“In our early discussions with customers, and moving forward, the CORBA and the COM issues were very important…from an enterprise standpoint you’re going to have a mixed breed of component technology so it’s important that we recognize that and be able to provide a productive, interoperable development console to be able to suit that,” he said.

Kara agreed. “If you look at most of the application servers out there right now, they are primarily focusing on CORBA and Java, and I suspect over the next couple of years they will be focusing on COM…(but) there’s very few that do that right out-of-the-box right now.”

Parlay also features Visual Configurator, an environment which allows the assembly and configuration of distributed Java classes, servlets or JavaBean components.

Developers can start with a Java component, incorporate an existing Parlay or third-party EJB-compliant connector and deploy the component on the client or server. Objects can be assembled and tested in a local runtime environment before deployment to the enterprise network.

“The Visual Configurator takes not just Java Beans, but Java applets and enterprise Java beans and you can basically test them in a local development workstation and then distribute them to clients and servers using a drag and drop interface,” Kara explained.

Other features include dynamic application partitioning, support for EJB Specification’s Native Global Directory Service, Java servlet support, integration of C and C++ application code with Java components, and multi-platform support.

Basically, Sinur said, IBI’s Parlay offers something its competitors do not. “Today, you have Microsoft’s approach which is not quite fully mature and doesn’t quite scale to the level that enterprise clients need, but there is a lot of inventory out there. IBM has an evolving product that has at its kernel a high-execution engine, but doesn’t have the ease-of-use nor the inventory yet. And then you have CORBA, which has a ubiquitous understanding in building inventory, but not the strength of a super-power vendor pushing it.”

“What Information Builders says is, ‘We don’t expect IBM domination, we don’t expect Microsoft domination, we don’t expect an independent domination. We expect an integration.”

Pricing for Parlay ( starts at $15,000 per CPU. Parlay server-side Java Beans start at $3,000 per CPU.

Information Builders in Toronto is at (416) 364-2760.