RealTime IT News

Grand Central: Integration is a Service

After months of tweaking, Grand Central Communications has finished the latest version of its Business Services Network, a system that shuttles business integration services over the Web to help clients manage and bundle applications.

Brian Mulloy, director of product marketing for Grand Central, said Business Services Network '05 is a compelling alternative to traditional integration software from IBM and BEA Systems .

Software from those vendors is purchased and set up by employees in what Grand Central believes is a "pray for success" scenario, where clients are not sure if the integration will take.

But Grand Central customers have the option of paying as they trigger each integration project without worrying about licensing fees that add up, which has been the traditional software model. They also don't have to wait the 12 to 18 months associated with traditional enterprise application integration.

"We are delivering an integration platform that is at parity or better with pure integration providers, but the network is on demand so you don't have to buy any hardware or software to manage," Mulloy told internetnews.com. "The value is that you get all of the benefits of enterprise software but none of the pains."

Business Services Network '05, Mulloy said, connects multiple endpoints across the Web, using a combination of a business process management (BPM) tool, an integrated user and business services directory and open Web services APIs that are accessible from any platform.

The BPM tool, Process Designer, is drag-and-drop, allowing business users and more technical developers to easily design business processes and content mapping without a lot of the tedious hand-coding associated with integration.

The directory makes it easier for users to find business services from other companies, such as SalesForce.com, providing a single view of users, groups and services. The directory is based on the LDAP standard , and administrators can manage the information in the directory.

Business Services Network '05 also supports single sign-on as a security measure to protect users and businesses from fraudulent activity.

ZapThink analyst Ronald Schmelzer said Grand Central might be on to something, because the concern is providing a virtualized environment for running and hosting services, which could give companies a way to implement service-oriented architectures (SOA) .

"Will the GC approach replace all integration technologies and efforts in a company? Probably not, since there are still quite a few integration scenarios that are either tightly coupled or happen entirely within a secured, local environment, where reaching out to a third party might not make sense," Schmelzer told internetnews.com.

"However, for the majority of integration scenarios that are business-to-business, or even department-to-department, where the primary challenge is simply making the connection happen in a loosely coupled fashion, the [Grand Central] approach might be very attractive."

Grand Central follows a similar model to SalesForce.com, which pipes customer relationship management software across the Web. Both companies were forged by entrepreneur Halsey Minor, who earlier dumped $40 million of his personal funds into a venture capital firm for software on-demand startups.