Application Potpourri

Frameworks, tools to assemble business logic into composite systems.

After years of deploying applications and databases in a willy-nilly fashion, many organizations are saddled with an IT infrastructure that looks more like a disjointed collage than a unified portrait. As a result, IT departments face huge challenges automating new business processes that tap into data and business logic residing in legacy applications.

Commercial software developers are rolling out software frameworks and integration tools that enable IT organizations to extract business logic and reassemble it into new composite applications that automate those new business processes. Such composite application building software is coming from ERP (enterprise resource planning) software company SAP AG, exchange software developer Commerce One Operations Inc., and application integration vendors SeeBeyond Technology Corp. and Jacada Ltd.

SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, earlier this month introduced a collection of enterprise applications designed to move thousands of users of its legacy R/3 ERP suite onto a platform that includes the new NetWeaver integration technology.

The goal of the MySAP ERP suite is to make it easier for organizations to change the IT infrastructure that automates business processes. Instead of doing a wholesale upgrade of R/3 or one of its components to change or add functionality, an organization with MySAP ERP would use NetWeaver to build new cross-functional applications. NetWeaver is an integration and application server technology that is interoperable with IBMs WebSphere and Microsoft Corp.s .Net. It includes a composite application framework that can be used to create applications that function across already defined business processes, as well as master data management services to ensure data integrity.

Meanwhile, Commerce One, of Pleasanton, Calif., this week will ship its Conductor software, which provides a technology stack for connecting business logic in enterprise applications. At the core of the offering is a registry that keeps track of processes, devices and people, so business workflows will not break when parts of the infrastructure change. Conductor includes a design suite, a portal presentation layer and templates for accelerating deployment of some business processes.

Separately, SeeBeyond earlier this month introduced its namesake ICAN (Integrated Composite Application Network) Suite 5.0, which includes a dozen new and enhanced tools to bridge the elements that may be encountered in composite application building—heterogeneous application server environments, existing enterprise portal implementations, installed application integration software and a plethora of Web services standards.

EWay Intelligent Adapters in Version 5.0, for example, is a line of 80 adapters for common applications and data stores that was enhanced to support the JCA (Java 2 Enterprise Edition Connector Architecture) standard and to expose those applications as Web services.

The update includes an enhanced Business Process Manager and a new Business Activity Monitoring Studio for rapidly creating composite applications without programmatic development.

For its part, Atlanta-based Jacada this week will roll out Version 3.8 of its namesake Integrator product, which includes new connectors for accessing IBM mainframe CICS and IMS transactions, Unisys Corp. host applications, and Web-based systems. Like Jacadas existing legacy screen-scraping integration offerings, these new offerings separate transaction logic buried within applications from their presentation layer. Those layers can be commingled in older legacy software and newer Web-based applications, officials said.

The new Jacada Integrator Host Transaction Connector enables IT architects to use CICS and IMS transactions in component applications by transforming them into Web services. It does this by presenting the transaction logic as JCAs, Enterprise JavaBeans, XML or .Net components. These components are reusable, officials said. The existing Jacada Integrator Host Screen Connector adds new support for the Unisys UTS protocol.

Lillian Vernon Corp. uses Jacada to connect its Web site to legacy AS/400 systems. With Jacada, the Rye, N.Y., retailer took the business logic that connected back-office applications to its call center and reconnected it to the companys Web site.

"All the logic of a 52-year-old company we can keep at the back end," said Ellis Admire, director of IS operations for Lillian Vernon. "We pull logic from the call center applications and move it into the Web environment."

Despite his success in pulling out the business logic in this case, Admire does not see the promise of composite applications as a panacea. He compares the reuse proposition with that of the subroutines he ran years ago on mainframe systems.

"Its like rapid application development [with] reusable modules in a library," Admire said. "You can take the logic flow, but you cant take the entire [application] module because they are not universally interchangeable."

"Its more theoretical than reality," Admire said.