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Grand Central's Next Stop: Improved Web Services

Business integration services provider Grand Central Communications Monday revved up its efforts to be a full integration services broker with the addition of an improved user interface, its own business process execution language and a Web services directory for its platform.

The company released its Grand Central Business Services Network Release 4.0, touting it as a complete stack for companies that want to connect, create, share and manage business processes without a lot of programming or configuring.

The San Francisco-based company employs the "software-as-service" model made popular by SalesForce.com. But unlike that company, which pipes customer relationship management software to customers, Grand Central helps companies integrate their business processes in days or weeks instead of months.

Of course, Web services, which allow applications to communicate with each other to perform a variety of tasks, such as processing purchase orders, are a huge part of business processes.

Grand Central Communication Vice President of Products John Linney said that while some modern-day software platforms are geared to manage or tie Web services together, Grand Central aims to help all sorts of business processes and disparate products interoperate.

A big selling point, Linney told internetnews.com, is that Grand Central offers such capabilities without the risk and investment of hardware, software, staffing, consultants and maintenance fees.

To wit, Grand Central Director of Product Management Byrne Reese said that the "heart," of network services 4.0 is a full business services directory, allowing customers to find and share services and business processes privately or publicly on the network in real-time.

With the directory services such as tax calculations or credit checks can be developed by an enterprise or Grand Central and published to the directory. Disparate communications styles can be mapped into Web service requests, so services can talk to B2B, EDI and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

The refurbished platform also enables service-based business process orchestration and deployment for customers and partners to allow them to model, combine, customize and publish processes.

The company has developed a kind of Business Process Execution Language for everyone, or BPEL4e. Ostensibly, this is Grand Central's service-based implementation of BPEL Version 1.1, the main impetus for "integration-as-a-service," Reese told internetnews.com.

BPEL4e incorporates standards into a business process in a single execution environment, from traditional EDI or FTP-enabled endpoints to more modern SOAP-enabled endpoints.

The 4.0 platform also uses a business process visual modeling tool, GC ProcessExpress, to manage legacy software and systems. Users may visually model and create "drag-and-drop" business processes as well as assemble and deploy message routes for services.

Reese also said the new Grand Central's has taken measures to improve the usability of its business services network. 4.0 features self-service integration where software is configured instead of hand-coded. Because the software is Web-based, it allows business processes to be run in the network without requiring major investments in hardware and software.

The improved Web interface can also be customized to present a branded version of the network to their customers and partners, with their own logo and color palette.