Vitria and Selectica Link Large-Scale Applications

Fujitsu PC Corp. (www.fujitsu-pc.com), manufacturer and seller of notebook computers, urgently needed to connect its back-end Oracle ERP system to a Web-based ordering system for resellers. There was a lag of a week or more between the time resellers placed their orders and the time the notebooks finally shipped -- a deadly disadvantage in an environment dominated by online competitors such as Dell Computer Corp. That's why Fujitsu turned to a pair of systems vendors that promised to link its Web front-end to its ERP back-end without a lot of programming modifications.

The vendor combo, Vitria Technology Inc. (www.vitria.com) and Selectica Inc. (www.selectica.com), delivered a system that enabled Fujitsu to perform the integration, thereby reducing its notebook delivery time to less than five days. Vitria's BusinessWare is part of a new class of software called enterprise application integration (EAI), or "businessware," that enables this ERP-Web integration.

At Fujitsu, a Vitria BusinessWare connector links Selectica's Java-based Internet Selling System (ISS) with buyers through the entire Web-purchase process. The connector -- now included in current releases of ISS -- enables Selectica’s application to interoperate with a number of legacy [mainframe?] and ERP systems. Similar alliances are being developed with other application providers, confirms Alex Osadzinski, vice president of marketing at Vitria. At the end of last year, Vitria announced a similar agreement with Inventa Corp. (www.inventa.com), a systems integrator for Internet customer interaction solutions.

While the agreements with Selectica and Inventa help enable end-to-end e-commerce functions, it is "not the defining reason for our company's existence," Osadzinski says. "However, it is an increasingly common attribute as a solution we provide our customers." For example, many e-commerce businesses rely on faxes generated from online orders, which are then re-keyed into the back-end applications. Giving businesses the ability to link these applications together will help move the data in accordance with business processes.

The main benefit of EAI products is that they act as "a higher-level type of glue to organize and integrate tasks to accomplish a business process," says Ed Acly, research director with International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com). "This sort of glue has never been available before." Businessware/EAI products give companies the option of not blending business processes, and the ability to choose the parts of ERP applications they need, rather than having to incorporate the whole thing, Acly points out.

While the goal is for users to be able to integrate applications without programming, this functionality is only partially delivered by products now, Acly says. He adds that many larger organizations have sophisticated integration scenarios that involve multiple, complex applications. For example, a company that has 10,000 applications under its roof still requires development expertise. Acly explains such requirements "still go beyond what businessware itself can deliver. There's a need for application development tools that interoperate with businessware."

While component-based development environments such as Enterprise Java Beans and COM+ can provide flexibility in configuring new applications to business requirements, "a lot of interfacing in the business world is with systems that were built before anyone ever heard of anything like COM+ and EJB," Acly notes.

One industry segment that immediately benefits from tools such as Vitria's is the systems integrator, which formerly had to hand-code connecting applications to tie together disparate applications. Vitria BusinessWare provides a user-configurable layer to link two or more applications. Acly says products like Vitria's have started to bring some automation to this process. Integrators initially thought these kinds of products were threatening to their business. Integrators now recognize they need this automation capability to be competitive.