EAI Apps Target Verticals

A new breed of EAI tools promises to provide an easier method for integrating business processes within and among companies in vertical markets.

A new breed of EAI tools promises to provide an easier method for integrating business processes within and among companies in vertical markets.

Enterprise application integration software coming from IBM, WebMethods Inc., TIBCO Software Inc. and Vitria Technology Inc. defines repeatable steps in specific industry processes. Standardizing on these steps can help an IT shop reduce the time it takes to connect transactional data residing on its systems and those of business partners.

Specifically, IBM will ship next quarter EAI best-practice templates for financial services. The templates are an outgrowth of similar vertically focused integration applications created by CrossWorlds Software Inc., which IBM acquired last year. The first new template is due in May. Templates for telecommunications are due in June and for the insurance industry at the end of the year.

Separately, WebMethods, of Fairfax, Va., is readying a variety of integration products for select vertical sectors. The first of the as-yet-unnamed products, due the first part of next quarter, will be for the financial services sector.

In the same vein, TIBCO, of Palo Alto, Calif., last week made available three vertical integration solutions for the utilities, financial services, and oil and gas industries. Vitria, of Sunnyvale, Calif., this month released integration applications for companies conducting business in the health care, manufacturing, finance and utilities sectors.

This new generation of EAI software goes beyond its role as middleware to connect business processes; it becomes an application that sits on each developers integration platform and solves a particular industry integration problem, such as straight-through processing in financial services. As such, it requires customers to replace some existing processes to match the best practices.

The concept is compelling enough to have prompted Tom Henderson, director of e-commerce integration services at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., to beta test Vitrias Demand Collaboration for Manufacturing EAI software. Before committing to the product, however, he said he wants to see how much of his existing Vitria deployment hell have to rip out.

"If you were starting from scratch, something like this would be great—get you about 95 percent ... there," said Henderson, in Akron, Ohio. "But if you have pieces ... in place, [is it worth it] to rip out and replace it?"

The developers acknowledge that their vertical solutions will not be an integration cure-all. One IBM customer found it was able to reuse 90 percent of the integration template applications that IBMs CrossWorlds unit had previously shipped, according to Rachel Helm, director of business process strategy with the IBM CrossWorlds Group.

"Ninety percent is pretty high," said Helm, in Burlingame, Calif. "Out of the box, Id say 50 percent is probably [realistic]. Manufacturing could be higher, financial services somewhat lower."