Silverstreams New Course

App server vendor moving into Web services via its eXtend environment; users' reactions mixed.

As competition stiffens among application server vendors, SilverStream Software Inc. is looking to Web services that provide users with a way to leverage existing applications on any platform.

The new strategy, announced last week, met with mixed reactions from users, who said it was a smart business move for SilverStream but questioned what will happen to the companys bread and butter, its app server.

SilverStream will build on its support for Extensible Markup Language through a new product called SilverStream eXtend, which is essentially a wrapper to change existing applications into Web services.

eXtend is a Java-based, integrated environment for creating and delivering Web services that sits on top of the app server. Slated for release next quarter, eXtend initially will run on SilverStreams app server, BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic or IBMs WebSphere.

Customers were mixed in their reactions to SilverStreams new focus.

Jim Miller, chief technology officer of Creditex Inc., said his financial services company, which uses SilverStreams app server, is starting to look into Web services. "Initially, we were very much an island of information," said Miller, in New York. "Now were looking to do more integration with some of our customers."

He said that SilverStream is smart to expand support for other application services, saying users dont want to be locked into a proprietary technology.

But Mark Clemmons, Web and database manager for Imperial Sugar Co., is concerned about the shift.

SilverStream is "getting more into B2B [business-to-business] integration and EAI [enterprise-application integration] type of things, and of course Web services is going to be a big part of that strategy," said Clemmons, a customer of SilverStreams xCommerce product, in Sugar Land, Texas. "Does that mean SilverStream is abandoning its app server? I dont know."

But company officials said they will continue to sell their app server while expanding into new areas and noted that the new strategy is really the evolution of technology they already had.

"We view Web services as very important technology, but it is really the defining piece that ties together other technologies weve had a lot of strength in," said David Litwack, SilverStreams president and CEO, in Billerica, Mass.

With eXtend, users can make their applications available as Web services for publication in either public or private directories. It allows for business process customization and supports various formats, including portals and wireless devices. It is built on existing SilverStream products, including xCommerce for back-end integration and ePortal for personalization.

While major vendors such as Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM also are chasing the Web services market, Litwack said Microsofts .Net is the only strategy as far-reaching as SilverStreams.

Pricing for the product will be the same with or without SilverStreams app server. It will be roughly equivalent to the current pricing of $35,000 per CPU for xCommerce and $50,000 per CPU for ePortal, Litwack said.