New e-business development projects within a company inevitably incorporate data from applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) with applications running on different platforms and belonging to a range of technological domains. The difficulty and cost of integrating all of these disparate applications can quickly skyrocket. And to add to the complexity of projects, e-business development teams may not be able to reproduce or modify the logic of some applications.
Verastream 8.0, an EAI (enterprise application integration) suite from WRQ Inc., provides the ability to integrate data from legacy host or packaged applications with existing applications at a minimal cost and level of complexity. Key improvements in Version 8.0 include unrestricted read/write access to popular software from Baan Co. NV, SAP AG, and Siebel Systems Inc., making possible XML-and Java-friendly Web apps and the SNMP standard for managing applications and monitoring their performance.
We like Verastream because it offers flexible and efficient software connectors to access just about any database, ERP, or mainframe application, without costly re-programming of the existing systems. Its easy-to-use and intuitive GUIs reduce development time and cost. Moreover, IT managers can purchase discrete components of Verastream and add more as their integration project evolves, thereby minimizing the initial investment. All of these features contributed to a Deploy score for Verastream.
Competitive EAI solutions include Active Enterprise from TIBCO Software Inc. or BusinessWare from Vitria Technology Inc. Both products offer better management of business rules and company workflows and ready-to-use modules for portals and intercompany integrations than Verastream. However, Verastream offers a single workbench to integrate data, applications, and business processes, and it integrates applications inside a company better than its competitors.
Reconquering the mainframe space
Verastream 8.0 offers its own GUI based development platform, the Technology Independent Modeler (TIM), and a Host Integrator server to manage integrated apps and components. The development GUI runs only on Windows, either NT 4.0 or 2000, but IT managers can establish the Integration Broker on AS/400, major Unix platforms, or Windows. An S/390 version is also in development.
Additional building blocks are available for purchase, depending on a company’s requirements. They include a Host Integrator 4.0, which translates existing terminal-based transactions into re-usable components, and connectors to Baan, SAP, and Siebel applications, plus myriads of native adapters for any database system.
To integrate legacy systems, IT managers use Verastream’s unique application modeling feature within Host Integrator to create a mock-up of AS/400, S/390, or Unix transactions. In fact, Host Integrator can learn how to navigate across a transaction and select specific data fields, similar to a human operator.
The advantage of Host Integrator is that integration projects can extract or update legacy data without changes to the existing applications, therefore replacing existing manual processes with more efficient, computer driven activities.
For example, in our test we were able to extract credit-limit information for a customer from a S/390-based transaction without much effort. All we had to do was insert the name of the component in our test apps to access the legacy host, the login information, and the customer ID. Behind the scenes, Verastream launched the host transaction and returned the credit limit amount for that customer.
Bridging foreign packages
For an additional cost, Verastream can achieve similar seamless connectivity to major packages from Baan, SAP, or Siebel. In fact, IT managers can purchase additional connectors that open application access to the database structure of those products. These connectors are collections of components that link applications to the CRM or ERP package to retrieve or modify data, again, without changing the existing software.
Also, Verastream TIM leverages technical differences among different packages and offers a consistent interface, which simplifies the creation of new applications. Developers don’t have to master the different APIs of each package: They simply need to know the Verastream rapid application development GUI.
In fact, Verastream’s product could become the only development tool that your developers use. IT managers can quickly create complex, Web-based applications that access host components, packaged software, or your company databases, as well as applications using technology such as COM, CORBA, Java Native Interface (JNI), or XML.
If some of your data is held hostage in legacy systems too expensive to modify or replace, Verastream offers a practical application integration solution. Depending on the environment, your cost can vary, but the benefits of more efficient business processes, an improved company image, and fewer development costs should amply repay your initial investment.
THE BOTTOM LINE: DEPLOY
WRQ Verastream 8.0
Business Case: This application integrator creates seamless links between incompatible applications, improving the overall efficiency of information systems.
Technology Case: Taking advantage of electronic playbacks that simulate user interactions, Verastream offers a viable path to integrate packaged software and legacy applications without reprogramming.
+ Fast and powerful development tools
+ Takes advantage of existing app logic
+ Modular architecture
– No built-in components to connect to external partners
Cost: Verastream $15,000; Host Integrator $30,000.
Platform(s): Server: AS/400, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 2000; major Unix versions. Development environment: Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000
Company: WRQ Inc.: www.wrq.com