Enterprise Interior Decorating

Remember when you bought your first piece of real furniture? I’m not talking about the cinderblocks and plywood that made up your college dorm room’s entertainment center or the vinyl-coated faux wood that lines the shelves of your local Wal-Mart, but an honest-to-gosh piece of hardwood, carefully chosen to adorn your living room or den. I remember marveling at how heavy and bulky a real couch seemed compared with a folding foam futon. I remember wincing at the price of real furniture, and I remember hoping I’d made a good choice. Real furniture is made to last a lifetime, and it's often difficult to resell.

Companies often go through the same pains when purchasing enterprise-class applications, such as an ERP system. They are expensive, bulky and often more difficult to move or change than simpler workgroup-oriented products. They are also typically high-quality solutions that, once installed, can serve a company for years and years. Furnishing the corporate "home" with software includes several challenges: multiple decision-makers, separate budgets, software furnishings inherited via mergers and acquisitions, and constantly changing technology and programming skills.

Despite the best intentions, enterprise software furnishings rarely display the unity and forethought of a model home. To ensure an investment in software doesn’t go to waste, enterprise programmers will need to perform a little interior decorating to make the various enterprise and off-the-shelf software furnishings mesh together. A company called Visual Edge (www.visualedge.com) can provide the tools the enterprise interior decorator needs to refurnish.

Visual Edge has spent 15 years creating enterprise interoperability solutions. Its products are based on its patented ObjectBridge technology, which enables seamless integration of disparate enterprise object models, such as DCOM, CORBA and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB). Visual Edge’s philosophy is that programmers should be able to reuse existing skills. To that end, ObjectBridge lets COM programmers use CORBA or EJB objects natively, without leaving the familiar world of repositories, global unique identifiers (GUIDs) and Interfaces. CORBA programmers, on the other hand, have no need to learn COM to effectively use it from a CORBA application. Visual Edge provides a graphic tool, which is used to enable the objects a programmer needs to access. Once enabled, the object becomes a first-class member of the new binding.

While interoperability between some middleware is impressive, Visual Edge has taken integration a step further to ERP systems. Its new Madrid project offers bidirectional control of SAP R/3 systems. Bidirectional control means integrators can access SAP objects and functions from COM, CORBA and EJB, and access any object of these types from within SAP. The external objects appear to be first class SAP business objects to the developer. Visual Edge isn’t stopping at SAP either. PeopleSoft's strategic planners say Visual Edge will soon provide their CORBA and EJB integration story, as well. Each new class of bindings that Visual Edge exposes can lessen the number of barriers to integration between competing and complimentary systems.

Visual Edge has not shied away from the tough integration issues either. For example, when Object Bridge encountered a situation where BEA Systems' Tuxedo client software, used by a number of ERP vendors, was not multithread safe, it reimplemented the problem areas of BEA’s library -- BEA may end up using the changes. Visual Edge also understands that integration in the Web era is useless if it isn't scalable. Visual Edge provides its own load balancing integration server to ensure that the pipe between the different vendors is wide and fast. For bindings that can support two-phase commit, Visual Edge provides transaction coordination, as well.

Picking out furniture to suit everyone’s taste is difficult, and furnishing suitable software for an enterprise is even harder. Visual Edge lets you pull off a software illusion that is unavailable in the physical world of couches and chairs. ObjectBridge can make a room full of contemporary furnishings appear to be Victorian antiques to old-timers, while making contemporary furniture appear to be post-modern furniture to futurists. If your job is making a mishmash of technologies work like a well-thought-out home, Visual Edge might make your job a lot easier. --Eric Binary Anderson is a development manager at PeopleSoft's PeopleTools division (Pleasanton, Calif.) and has his own consulting business, Binary Solutions. Contact him at ebinary@yahoo.com.