Web Services Network in the Works

Unlike the major software vendors that are providing tools and platforms to build and deploy Web services, startup Grand Central Networks Inc. is trying to be the conductor.

Unlike the major software vendors that are providing tools and platforms to build and deploy Web services, startup Grand Central Networks Inc. is trying to be the conductor.

Grand Central provides a vendor-neutral infrastructure layer to help companies take advantage of new Web-enabled types of applications. The 15-month-old companys Web Services Network seeks to add reliability, security and profitability to Web services, officials said. Last month, the company launched a public beta program for its service.

Putnam Lovell Securities Inc. is using Grand Central to link two Internet-based services. One is a customer relationship management package from San Francisco-based Salesforce.com Inc., and the other is a research creation package from BlueMatrix Inc., of New York.

"Its building a conduit to integrate the two applications," said Rodric OConnor, vice president of technology for Putnam Lovell Securities, in San Francisco. "BlueMatrix will query the Salesforce application for a list of clients interested in receiving a particular pack of research. What this is replacing is a manual process at the moment."

OConnor said he expects Grand Central to save the company as much as $800,000 per year in printing costs. "The alternative would be to purchase application integration software and get a consultant in to configure that," he said.

Craig Donato, president and CEO of Grand Central, said its now easy to expose business processes to the Internet. But, Donato said, "thats not sufficient for all the things that need to occur."

"The goal of a shared infrastructure is to reduce friction with the end points," lowering the cost and barriers of participating, said Donato, in San Francisco.

Once users connect to Grand Centrals services, they can access a variety of Web services. Users dont have to download any software or buy any hardware.

Grand Central ensures that the messaging system sending Web services back and forth is secure and reliable, Donato said. For example, if a Web service a business is using shuts down in the middle of a transaction, Grand Centrals queuing technology can redeliver the information when the service is restored.

Grand Central also offers a security aspect by verifying and authenticating users who connect to its site. Other features include the ability to string individual Web services together and a rules engine that allows users to set up billing or subscription features.

Grand Central plans to sell its service directly and through systems integrators and ISVs. For the direct sales piece, Grand Central will charge an annual subscription based on the number of relationships managed through the system.