BEA Addresses Missing Piece of B2B Process

While the technology and protocols that link systems are rampant, there are few solutions that integrate the movement of documents once they pass through a firewall. Addressing this piece of the process, BEA Systems Inc. ( recently acquired The Workflow Automation Corp. (, maker of a business process engine that integrates internal business processes with external business-to-business (B2B) applications. The workflow technology will serve as the centerpiece of BEA's new B2B architecture for the Web, code-named Project e-Collaborate.

Workflow's former headquarters in Markham, Ontario, will be converted into a BEA research and development center, says Barbara Britton, president of BEA's e-commerce integration division. The technology center in Markham will be dedicated to the development of business process flow software known as BEA eProcess Integrator, based on Workflow Automation's existing Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based and XML-based jFlow product.

BEA's new eProcess Integrator will provide "a lightweight workflow engine to help drive the process logic" in e-Collaborate, Britton says. E-Collaborate is now entering beta among five customers, she added. Applications to be tested by early adopters include corporate portals, and different types of business-to-business marketplaces.

To illustrate how e-Collaborate will work, Britton gives the example of a large airline, interested in quickly achieving full integration with outside services such as travel agencies and rental car companies, with the goal of providing an end-to-end travel experience. Without the proper middleware, this kind of integration could take months, she contends.

"E-Collaborate is a complete middleware environment that lets you perform transactions, track orders, and personalize," Britton says. "You can set up a collaboration space that will let all the partners be part of things. You can extend out a Web site, with new services, in a matter of hours."

Analysts agree that workflow functions are the missing link in collaborative ventures between businesses. "Business process management is emerging as an extremely important area," says Tyler McDaniel, analyst at Hurwitz Group ( "Bringing it in-house will certainly strengthen BEA's efforts toward a total solution in Java."

Slated to roll out in the third quarter of 2000, eProcess Integrator will work as an integration engine on BEA's WebLogic server, linking EJB components such as an Internet catalog and shopping cards to back-end systems like order management, procurement, and financial systems.

EProcess Integrator will also interoperate with eLink, BEA's enterprise application integration (EAI) suite, for integration between the Internet, XML, and legacy back-end services.

BEA provides mainframe connectivity through 51 different protocols, Britton says.