dcsimg
RealTime IT News

WebMethods, Informatica Off with a 'BAM'

Business integration concern webMethods and business intelligence specialist Informatica have joined forces to create a software platform geared for integration -- but with the benefits of business activity monitoring (BAM).

Fairfax, Va.'s webMethods and Redwood City, Calif.'s Informatica unveiled their co-created Business Activity Platform (BAP) to address the convergence of integration technologies and meet customer's requirements to monitor their business processes.

BAM, a relatively new approach to integration, is defined by research firm Gartner as the practice of providing on-the-fly access to business performance indicators to improve the speed and quality of business operations. It has evolved from a meshing of two classic integration ideologies -- data integration, which exists in the form of extraction, transformation, and load (ETL) software, and enterprise application integration (EAI) applications, which make up process integration -- Informatica knows ETL; webMethods has been doing EAI for years. Small pure play BAM vendors include Systar, Black Pearl and firstRain.

Why do companies need a BAM platform? Business analytics software aims to let enterprises zero in on their customers and products to give them the most specific information possible so they can make the most informed decision. For example, an e-commerce company might want to know what product is selling the best in the Northeast region. The answer resides in a database, which then analyzed, creating latency that slows response times. But if this info is analyzed in real-time, it feeds the information to the end-user faster, allowing he or she to make quicker decisions.

Using a blend of webMethods' and Informatica's platforms, a company can detect changes to the operating metrics for any business process in real time. Informatica's business intelligence products can gauge this data to make an informed response, and the response can be retrieved immediately using the business process management capabilities of the webMethods integration platform.

Jim Ivers, senior director of product marketing, webMethods, said the two firms decided that rather than spend the time and money researching and developing the technologies necessary to round out a software platform that bundles true process integration with data integration, they would combine their expertise and work together on it. The result, said Informatica Director of Product Marketing Daniel Niemann, is a product that combines the best of business intelligence and integration.

Ivers and Niemann said the Business Activity Platform fuses the webMethods Integration Platform with Informatica's PowerCenterRT data integration platform and PowerAnalyzer business intelligence software. The engine is tied together by a Business Activity Platform Adapter, which makes interoperability between the two components possible.

The BAM Adapter allows Informatica's PowerCenterRT data integration platform and PowerAnalyzer business intelligence software to sit on the integration network. As an order comes through as an XML document, Informatica can subscribe to the document and do filtering on that transaction to see if it fits.

There are a number of scenarios that BAP is equipped to handle, but a couple that come to mind are orders that exceed what they should be and the credit risk scenario -- if an order exceeds a customers credit line. In the first, an order may be pared by as much as 20 percent by pulling historical data from a data warehouse to determine the correct quantity. The Informatica engine would queue up an alert to a portal, or an e-mail to a customer service representative to alert them to the problem.

In the second, BAP would provide real-time escalation of a credit line, by firing a transaction back to the webMethods platform to for approval.

"All of that touches interaction integration side of access, as historical data is handed down by ETL and put through to the business intelligence side of Informatics," Ivers said.

The company representatives said customers have been asking for a product that renders real-time visibility from multiple applications and business processes in a business intelligence dashboard.

While this may be true, Gartner principal analyst Ted Friedman said the firms face certain challenges; namely, the immaturity of the BAM market and the likely high price of the BAP.

"Historically, webMethods and Informatica's products have been well known to be expensive and not easy to implement," Friedman told internetnews.com. "I'm not sure but I'd have to think the BAM platform they're selling runs at least a quarter of a million dollars. Informatica's PowerCenterRT platform and PowerAnalyzer software are about $300,000 alone. They would have to make a compelling argument to get people to spend money on this given their budgetary constraints."

Webmethods and Informatica refused to release pricing details for BAP. Friedman said that may indicate that it is, indeed, expensive.

Friedman did praise the platform as a first of its kind in terms of how much ground it covers, noting that other vendors have done some BAM work in terms of visualization, but have not supplied the breadth of visualization and infrastructure that BAP offers.

To make sure the BAP does what it sets out to do, webMethods and Informatica are working closely with management consulting and technology services concern Accenture to help customers ease into the platform.

Norman Fekrat, partner at Accenture, said bundling business intelligence technology with integration platforms can help customers get a holistic view of their enterprise and make faster and more effective decisions.

To give customers more choice, the companies have arranged it so BAP can be managed by HP, Computer Associates or BMC. For example, BAP integrates with HP OpenView management software and allows IT managers to track the activity levels and network resources used by a business process. This is made possible by the OMI specification, jointly developed by webMethods and HP, which exposes the integration layer for monitoring.