Here today, but in what way?
- By Colleen Frye
Manila, the capital of the philippines, is a perfect metaphor for the problem
middleware, and enterprise application integration (EAI) middleware, in particular,
is trying to solve. Manila suffers from heavy traffic and pollution during business
hours, which is exacerbated by the motorcycle couriers delivering paperwork from
corporate transactions. Instead of spaghetti code, it is crisscrossing motorcycles
that tie together the isolated systems of various corporations.
In the Philippines' financial industry, for example, 80% of stock traders
ask for paper, estimates Bill Ogilvie, chief operating officer for SecureTrade,
an e-commerce company and application service provider (ASP) for financial services
and banking. Ogilvie said in the Philippines, "the trades go to the stock transfer
agent who prints the paper, takes it to the corporation for a signature, puts
it on a motorcycle and delivers it to the owner - and the owner may have traded
[the stock] again without the paper." The problem that plagues many Southeast
Asian nations, he said, is lack of infrastructure. "There's no Fed wire, no
automated clearinghouse, no way to transfer funds and credit card use is low."
SecureTrade, which is targeting developing nations in Southeast Asia, has
developed a framework for business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce using ActiveWorks,
an EAI solution from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Active Software; and Virtual
DB, which integrates data from multiple sources into a single virtual database
with no custom coding, from Enterworks Inc., Ashburn, Va. At the heart of this
B2B framework will be the eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which Active currently
supports and which the EAI market is embracing.
In the stock-trading application that SecureTrade has developed, the Enterworks
Virtual DB is used to integrate the disparate databases of the 24 stock transfer
agents in the Philippines stock exchange. ActiveWorks is then used to integrate
the workflow of the transactions, delivering messages back and forth, said Ogilvie.
"We went from T+40 [transaction plus 40 days to settle] to T+4, and we're prepared
for T+0. An investor can go to the Internet instead of picking up the phone
and calling the central depository. They can now go to SecureTrade and see all
their holdings across all the transfer agents," he explained. Both brokers and
investors will fill out online XML forms. ActiveWorks' XML adapter allows the
data from the forms "to integrate with the applications of the exchange and
the brokers," noted Ogilvie.
XML will also be at the heart of an automated tax filing and payment application
for businesses to pay their Value Added Tax (VAT). Ogilvie said that in the
Philippines, multinationals like Coca-Cola must pay a monthly VAT. He said they
typically "cut a check, put it on a motorcycle, deliver it to the government
bank, and get a deposit slip saying it's for the account of the Bureau of Internal
Revenue." Ogilvie said SecureTrade has a beta app working for Coca-Cola that
will allow the multinational company to fill out an XML form for the VAT and
submit it over the Internet. It will then debit Coke's account and credit the
government's, as well as be date stamped.
Active's support for XML was a key reason SecureTrade chose to build its infrastructure
around ActiveWorks, in addition to its ease of use, Ogilvie said. SecureTrade
also evaluated IBM's MQSeries. "I have 20 developers [who are] three years out
of college, max. They're incredibly quick and sharp, they know Java," noted
Ogilvie. "They picked up Active in a couple of weeks to [learn to] write adapters.
With MQSeries, we evaluated it for six weeks and got nowhere."
Ogilvie also talked to Active about how XML would be integrated into ActiveWorks.
"When we looked at how MQ would do XML, it just wasn't as fully integrated [as
ActiveWorks]," he said. Support for emerging standards such as XML is important
to SecureTrade, said Ogilvie, because the company intends to support the direction
of the Global Straight Through Processing Association, an association of security
brokers and dealers, which intends to stick to technology standards such as
Niche players not alone
Manila is not alone in its problems. Integration is an issue everywhere. According
to a Butler Group report, a typical global enterprise depends upon approximately
50 applications, 13 OSes and 10 DBMSs to run its business. No wonder middleware,
which acts as the "glue" or plumbing that brings disparate systems together,
is on a roll. According the 1999 Middleware and Businessware report from Framingham,
Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC), revenues in the worldwide middleware/businessware
(real-time EAI) market will increase 438% from $2.2 billion in 1998 to $11.6
billion by 2003.
E-commerce is clearly a driver, which means companies must not only get a
handle on internal application integration, but they must now be able to integrate
with their supply-chain partners' and customers' systems - across both traditional
platforms and new wireless platforms such as cell phones and PDAs (see "Converging
technologies," p. 38). According to a recent Hurwitz Group report, 89% of companies
interviewed indicated that they are moving to or are currently implementing
e-business strategies, with 90% citing their EAI projects as key components
in the process.
With such a hot market, it comes as no surprise that the software powerhouses
are not going to let niche players like Active, Vitria Technology Inc., Sunnyvale,
Calif., New Era of Networks (Neon) Inc., Englewood, Colo., and others run away
with it. Witness the recent entries into the EAI market by companies such as
Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., and Saga Software Inc., Reston, Va., which
have both rolled out new EAI solutions. And Sun Microsystems recently acquired
Forté Software, which has an XML-based EAI product line, and recently
announced its support for the XSL Transformation (XSLT) spec for data transformation
among apps. Recommended by the World Wide Web consortium (W3C), XSLT enables
one XML document to be transformed into another based on an XSL stylesheet.
"The integration market is starting to change," said Jeremy Burton, vice president
of Internet platform marketing at Oracle. "There are a lot of new requirements
brought about by a desire not just to integrate applications inside the business,
but between businesses. There's an order of magnitude increase in the number
of message exchanges between businesses, and there are new requirements in terms
of the standards to build to.
"In the past, a lot of messaging infrastructure was proprietary," continued
Burton. "For B2B, the Internet is the dominant medium, and XML has emerged as
a standard for describing data. It made sense at this point to come out with
a product that deals with these new requirements."
Oracle's new Integration Server provides an XML-enabled infrastructure for
enterprises and e-business exchange. The Integration Server includes a message
broker, queuing services, data transformation services and app adapter services.
Out-of-the-box adapters are available to integrate Oracle Customer Relationship
Management (CRM) products with ERP apps, including SAP R/3 and Oracle Applications.
The product also works with other message brokers, such as IBM MQSeries and
Tibco, and its open APIs allow it to work with TSI's Mercator transformation
Said Burton, "XML is the key enabling technology in the integration server."
He said the company is involved with XML on a number of levels, including the
Open Applications Group's (OAG) efforts to develop XML standards for document
Saga Software's recently launched Saga- vista EAI solution was also built
to support XML. "XML is native within Sagavista," said David Linthicum, chief
technology officer. "It's a JMS [Java Messaging Service] object within Sagavista.
We built from the ground up looking at XML." The JMS specification provides
developers with a standard Java API for enterprise messaging services.
Like Oracle's offering, Sagavista offers a message broker for SAP R/3 and
Saga's own EntireX and Natural/Adabas legacy products, in addition to other
adapters. It is written in Java and runs on OS/390, NT and MVS, with support
for Unix forthcoming. "Sagavista was built from the ground up to support dynamic
distributed computing, which is different than most message brokers with a hub-and-spoke
model," noted Linthicum. "It can be a set of processes running across hundreds
of computers; you can have many message broker instances running across many
Sagavista has a "good architecture," said Ross Altman, research director,
application integration and middleware strategies, Gartner Group. "They've committed
a lot of resources to building adapters, and they have a nice adapter development
environment," he said. However, he points out that Sagavista still lacks workflow,
or business process automation, which other EAI players already have.
On the plus side, Altman said Sagavista "runs in a mainframe and distributed
environment, which most everybody else does not, although Neon [MQIntegrator]
does. And it supports Software AG products, which is good if you have Adabas
and EntireX. And they have their own JMS messaging built in; you can use theirs
The fact that both Oracle Integration Server and Sagavista support XML is
important, but not a differentiator, said Ross. Almost all of the EAI players,
new and old, are building in XML support, whether from the ground up like Saga
and Oracle, or as an enhancement, like the more established EAI vendors. "Using
XML at this point isn't a distinction; they almost all have put in XML support,"
said Altman. "It's important to support XML, but for most people today, their
XML support is basic. If you send them an XML document they'll be able to decode
it. Very few vendors do anything that they couldn't do if XML didn't exist.
XML itself is not a panacea standard."
To imagine that XML will enable all systems to be plug-and-play "is a bit
of a pipe dream," said Altman. He points to Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
as a standard with a similar hope, and yet "they've been at it for 25 years"
and the world is still not plug-and-play. What XML will be, he said, is "a useful
catalyst" for data interchange and integration.
Today's businesses see it that way, too, and many are forging ahead with applications
using XML, whether for internal or external integration. Miami-Dade Community
College (MDCC), for example, is promoting XML as a common way to communicate
with its employees and students, as well as with other higher education institutions
throughout the state.
For example, the Florida college has built its own messaging system utilizing
XML as part of a Web-based student registration system that needs to integrate
with EntireX on the mainframe. "We started work on Web registration and needed
a messaging system," said Steve Waters, project analyst for Web development,
and key developer for Web and XML applications. "We came to the conclusion that
XML is going to be the messaging structure people will use, whether for B2B
or intracompany. We needed to send messages from a Java-based Web client to
the mainframe. At that point, there was nothing on the mainframe to handle XML
at all; we had to write [our] own parser for XML on the mainframe to handle
MDCC's work began prior to learning about Sagavista. The vendor and the college
discovered they were moving in a similar direction. MDCC agreed to pilot Sagavista
for exchanging messages between Oracle and EntireX, said Howard Murphy, director
of computer services at MDCC. The pilot benefited both, he said. MDCC knew it
had some shortcomings in its messaging system, and Saga was able to benefit
from the work MDCC had done on the XML side, particularly the mainframe XML
Eventually, MDCC plans to build Sagavista into the Web registration system,
enabling the college to switch between its own messaging solution and Sagavista
when appropriate. "If a message doesn't get through, Sagavista has the facility
to keep retrying," Waters explained. "They also have a router, where we can
say 'Here's one message, send it to seven places at the same time.' We can only
send to one person, while they can send to many."
Added Murphy, "Application to application, we can custom tune our messaging
to be more efficient than any vendor product. But as we move forward to different
kinds of applications, we would develop a custom method of communication. Saga
has developed that kind of general-purpose communication medium with Sagavista."
Since MDCC was already a Saga customer, going with Sagavista eliminated the
need to deal with another vendor. In the EAI realm, " we want to reduce the
number of vendors we work with," said Larry Chen, chief technology officer at
Bidcom Inc., an ASP for the building industry. Founded in 1997, San Francisco-based
Bidcom hosts business process modeling, collaboration and project management
services for all parties involved in a construction project. The first phase
of its business model is to eliminate, via the Web, the faxing and snail mail
that goes on in the building industry. The second phase will be integrating
systems, which will require an EAI and message broker solution. Chen said Bidcom
will evaluate Oracle's Integration Server, as they are already an Oracle 8i
XML is playing a key role in Bidcom's work today and will in the future, said
Chen. "Our Version 1 project has XML; every document is modeled in XML. We have
an internal schema that describes different documents. Data is stored in an
Oracle database, and we have a 'cartridge' [container] that takes data from
the database and the general XML representation. On the other side, we have
XSL stylesheets; we combine XML/ XSL to generate the HTML."
Bidcom is now looking at messaging middleware, and talking to Oracle, although
they have not made a decision on XML Server, said Chen. "But that's the direction
we're going, to use messaging as a pipe and XML as the format for exchanging
data across multiple systems. Oracle is going in the right direction in putting
together an infrastructure to make our life much easier."
Indeed, making life easier and more efficient is what EAI solutions purport
to be all about. According to the Hurwitz Group, 67% of the companies they surveyed
cited improved efficiencies as the primary factor for implementing an EAI project.
SecureTrade's Ogilvie said EAI not only has the potential to drive efficiencies
into Manila's commerce, but could also alleviate the traffic and pollution problem
- moving from metaphor to Main Street. "Middleware will redeploy the motorcycles.".
As if IT organizations did not have enough of an enterprise integration
headache, add new wireless devices to the platform mix sending CIOs to the
aspirin bottle. Everyone from road warriors, to mobile workers to physicians
treating patients wants access to enterprise applications. Fortunately,
EAI players and others in the integration arena are working to make this
"It's becoming a requirement that anyone in the EAI space is going to
have to support [wireless], most often with XML," said Keith Goldstein,
director of strategic alliances at Tibco, Palo Alto, Calif. Goldstein
points to Tibco customer Pagenet, "which built an EAI infrastructure using
Tibco Active Enterprise and wireless delivery."
In addition, Tibco in September announced a partnership with AvantGo,
in which Tibco will resell AvantGo Enterprise along with Tibco's TIB/Content
Broker and TIB/Event Console to mobile professionals who need access to
ERP data via handheld devices.
"Our relationship with AvantGo is moving us further along in our wireless
strategy, with regards to classical EAI, and adding an extension for a
portal," said Goldstein. "We understand the importance of multiple clients,
regardless of where they are and if they're connected. We're embedding
and selling AvantGo products around content aggregation and delivery.
This will allow the PalmPilot to access data anywhere, regardless of content
and where it's coming from."
Tibco is using XML as a key part of its wireless efforts. "We include
XML as a meta data model; when we publish a message onto the bus, it uses
XML as a definition. We could do it without XML, but our strategy is to
work with best of breeds and standards adhering to Java, XML, RosettaNet,
etc.," said Goldstein.
He said Tibco is extending beyond classical EAI to delivering content
to portals. Tibco also has a portal hosting service called Tibco.net.
Another XML player, Mount Laurel, N.J.-based Bluestone Software, in
December demonstrated a wireless app at Giga Information Group Inc.'s
Emerging Technology Scene conference using its Total-e-Business product
suite, and wireless devices from Symbol Technologies Inc. and Qualcomm.
For the demo, a ruggedized Symbol SPT 1740 RF PalmPilot scanned the bar-coded
name tag of an attendee and entered the attendee's cell phone number.
Bluestone's ConXML software converted the scanned data to XML and uplinked
it via wireless protocols to a Symbol Spectrum24 Wireless LAN receiver
connected to the Total-e-Business server. Total-e-Business software, including
the Sapphire/Web Application Server and XML Suite Integration Server,
personalized the data and displayed the attendee's name on a Web page.
The name was sent to be printed on a T-shirt, and the attendee's cell
phone received an E-mail when the T-shirt was ready. Bluestone has put
out as open source code the ConXML software, which runs on the Pilot.
Bluestone developed the application in about a week, said Bob Bickel,
senior vice president of products. For local-area networks, a Symbol-type
application works well, he said. For wide-area networks, however, "you
still have to rely on cellular technology." Third-generation wireless
and broadband will start to open up new applications, he said.
As it does, more integration challenges will arise. "Wireless for [EAI
players] is still a bit of a stretch," said Gartner Group's Altman. "It's
not what these guys typically do for a living." He said it falls more
into the realm of "companies like Bluestone and Silverstream, but nothing
is out of bounds. In e-business, a lot of stuff will end up converging."
— Colleen Frye