Jan Baan Takes On Software Giants

Baan details how his new company, Cordys, will compete with SAP, IBM/PeopleSoft and Microsoft in the collaboration market.

Earlier this month Jan Baan, a name synonymous with one of the great ERP success stories in the 1990s—Baan Co.—launched a new venture. In stealth mode for the past two years, Baans newest company, Cordys Inc., is based on portal and integration technology from TopTier Software Inc., a company that Baan sold to SAP AG several years ago.

The Netherlands-based Cordys develops collaboration and integration software that enables companies to create composite application frameworks. Composite applications are made up of components from various other applications that are aggregated and integrated using Web services.

With his new company, Baan expects to compete with the likes of Walldorf, Germany-based SAP, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. and most recently PeopleSoft Inc., which last week announced a relationship with IBM that will produce a composite application framework for users. Baan answered questions from eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson via e-mail.

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Can you drill down on your collaboration technology? What makes it different from integration software, or does it work essentially the same way as integration software?

The answer to this question is threefold. One, the way Cordys approaches the business challenges; two, Cordys enterprise class technology; and three, because of one and two, the unparalleled breadth of functionality that Cordys offers based on a single architecture.

Cordys first addresses the challenges of the business user…and answers their need for a flexible and agile environment. Therefore, Cordys provides a full BPM solution (with multiple integrated layers) and a process-centric development environment. In order to achieve a full-featured business process management solution, Cordys delivers Portal technology to provide a unified virtual desktop to enhance the user experience (integration of the user interface as well as the back ends). Cordys also delivers process and workflow engines and event driven architecture to bring proactiveness to the underlying systems. And because in the majority of cases our clients processes are fed by different systems, Cordys provides a service oriented architecture via a leading-edge enterprise service bus to create Web-services based collaboration between systems.

[Secondly] Cordys envisioned the whole product stack needed for the business. Our experience is in delivering enterprise class technology and weve focused all of our expertise in this field in building the Cordys solution from scratch in a unified architecture that is standards-based. By using the same XML objects the information container throughout the Cordys solution space, Cordys provides a full scalable, high volume, transaction-based enterprise class solution. Of course, weve built in support for load balancing and fail-over. Cordys is based on an enterprise services bus…not a standard application server. On the other hand, we still integrate with J2EE and .Net application servers.

[Thirdly] having said that: Cordys brings unparallel breadth of functionality based on a single architecture. Cordys has no legacy technology to maintain or upkeep, and is not built on acquired products with varying technologies.

How much is Cordys technology based on the integration technology developed by TopTier? What influence, if any, did TopTier have on your development efforts?

The core of the Cordys people worked together with TopTier during the Baan period (mid 1990s). Its pretty difficult to pinpoint technology to either Cordys or TopTier; theyve worked in one team at that time. The moment I sold TopTier to SAP the IP could be used both by Cordys and SAP. Cordys is not using the hyper-relational technology of TopTier in our integration layer. The Cordys integration layer is completely built on an enterprise service bus. What you might see in both the mySAP portals (aka TopTier Portal) and Cordys Portal is the way we render XML in the browser. Of course we are using our collective experience in Meta-Data exploring in our Cordys product and how to access enterprise-class packaged applications.

What differentiates Cordys technology?

[Users are able to] extend the ROI [return on investment] on existing systems respond proactively by a fusion of Service Oriented and Event Driven architectures; faster ROI and lower TCO [total cost of ownership] by providing unparalleled breadth of functionality based on a single architecture; a single engine capable of dealing with business processes and human workflow for high performance and faster execution; standards based technology (XML, WSDL, XSD, BPMN, BPML, XFORMS) that ensures better interoperability in heterogeneous environments; and we provide a component gallery with pre-built building blocks to accelerate the creation of [composite application] solutions.

What is your vision for Cordys as a company?

Its always difficult to look into the future. One big thing we have learned: Big is not necessarily better; agile is. We are living in a networking economy and Cordys is—next to our own market activities—in the process of gathering more partners that we can serve the market with.

Given that Cordys is essentially a startup, how do you anticipate competing against the likes of SAP, IBM and Microsoft?

We dont consider Cordys a startup. A company with 550 employees is not a startup. The technology we built during the last couple of years, while we were in stealth mode, is not being considered ground breaking. There is no startup that could have afforded investing so much in technology and products, before hitting the market, as Cordys is doing now. [Cordys is funded privately by Baans charitable holding company, Oikonomos Foundation, and through the sale of technology to none other than SAP.]

Cordys technology is one of our differentiators from the competition: We solve the current issues with legacy systems at our customers [business] with Cordys technology that in itself is completely legacy-free. And we build this software with many talented people on one floor—which is just another ultimate collaboration platform!

Next to this, as a company Cordys is relatively small, very flexible and agile, and were fast at decision making. Cordys does not have shareholders that are eager for short term results. This enables us to put the clients needs first and deeply invest both capital and knowledge in developing and delivering the best possible solution for their business issues.

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