Bostech Brings EAI to Mid-Sized Business

While EAI had offered large enterprises the opportunity to standardize their computing infrastructures, one of the promises of EaI has fallen short. Businesses who wanted to integrate their supply chains from end-to-end found smaller suppliers lacked the resources to do EAI, leaving gaps in the network.

One company, Bostech Corp, offers products to enable mid-sized businesses to integrate their systems through EAI and fill in the gaps, giving the enterprise a complete look at the supply chain and the smaller business a competitive edge.

“This opens up a whole new world for mid-sized and large businesses,” says Brad Bostic, CEO of Bostech. Bostic says that mid-sized businesses have often wanted to build EAI systems, but lacked the resources to implement them. In addition, vendors have often ignored midrange platforms such as the AS/400, now the iSeries.

Kyle Johnson, an associate analyst with Forrester Research, says ChainBuilder is the first product he is aware of able to provide EAI for mid-sized businesses and midrange systems. He contrast the products large-scale EAI solutions such as WebMethods, which are out of the reach of most mid-sized businesses. “They can only be supported by companies who can sign very big checks,” he says.

Bostech may not be alone in this space for long, however. “There are other companies interested in this space, Microsoft and IBM, notably,” Johnson says. He points to middleware products like Microsoft BizTalk Server and IBM’s MQSeries, which are taking steps in this direction.

Bostech’s suite of EAI products include ChainBuilder Pro, a server that allows administrators to create interfaces between applications; ChainBuilder LINC, connection agents running natively on host systems; and PalletBuilder, software for creating e-commerce sites that use legacy systems.

ChainBuilder Pro takes data from a system such as an AS/400, formats the data to XML, and connects to other machines with a variety of different protocols. “We cover all the protocols you can use in applications,” Bostic says, citing TCP/IP, SNA, and LU.6.2 as popular protocols.

ChainBuilder LINC is an application that resides on a host machine, allowing it to talk to the ChainBuilder Pro server. LINC are written in languages native to the host machine, for example, AS/400 LINCs are written in RPG and are available for popular applications, such as J.D. Edwards. Bostic says his native approach makes the overall architecture more lightweight. “The best thing is to leverage the logic in your existing system,” he says.

With ChainBuilder Pro and ChainBuilder LINCs, mid-sized businesses can connect to suppliers and customers, automating purchasing and supply chains. Now these businesses can better serve customers through automation, perhaps beating out competitors who lack EAI systems. “The customers find an incredible amount of competitive advantage by being able to connect,” Bostic says.

Johnson is a bit more skeptical about business-to-business integration with ChainBuilder. He believes that most companies will be more interested in connecting systems internally than connecting systems to suppliers.

Bostech’s third product in the ChainBuilder Suite, PalletBuilder, provides companies the ability to connect legacy systems to e-commerce applications. Here, Johnson sees ChainBuilder’s real value. He says, for example, J.D. Edwards is prevalent in mid-sized businesses, but “That software doesn’t make a face to the web very well.” PalletBuilder, with ChainBuilder allows administrators to make a face for the applications.

Johnson acknowledges ChainBuilder can be useful for connecting smaller businesses to enterprises, but wonders who will take the initiative: “I think a lot of the business-to-business connections will be subsidized by the larger company.” - Chris McConnell