RealTime IT News

'Internet Concierge' Plots Web Services Course

While many vendors advertise plumbing and tools for distributed computing systems, a new start-up billing itself as an "Internet Concierge" emerged from stealth mode with a working Web services platform and application.

Rearden Commerce, previously known as Talaris, makes software that brings services to corporate employees on demand.

Corporate employees can use the Rearden Employee Business Services (EBS) application to purchase goods and book flights, hotels and dining appointments through a Web browser, instantly tabulating the cost. It is policy-based, granting users services based on their identities and rights as employees.

Integrated with users' calendars and contact lists, the system keeps them updated on the latest status of their requests and coordinates groups of employees involved in the same meeting or trip.

Employees scheduling audio or Web conferences can use the application to access their Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes address books and send calendar invitations to their contacts.

The Java-based software, which is based on the Rearden Commerce Platform, locates and connects to different applications and systems regardless of the underlying technologies from various vendors.

Calling the Reardon Commerce Platform a "Google-like server farm," Forrester Research analyst Mike Gilpin said Reardon's approach is interesting in that the it proposes low-cost infrastructure based on low-cost Intel boxes running Linux and Java. This enables rapid and dynamic provisioning of services onto the grid.

Unlike most start-ups, Rearden comes to the table with Fortune 500 and mid-market customers, as well as global reseller partners, such as HP, and technology and content partners, such as ITA Software, Maporama and Northstar Travel Media.

On-demand software is not a new category, though it is gaining in popularity as customers seek the holy grail of automated software to do business.

Software providers, such as Salesforce.com and Grand Central Networks, provide applications and integration on demand, respectively. But Rearden aims to offer advanced employee services on the fly, according to Patrick Grady, founder and CEO of Rearden Commerce.

Grady said companies spend more than $1.5 trillion on travel, Web conferencing and package shipping each year, but just 10 percent of all services transactions are made using e-commerce. He attributed this small percentage to the complications of making software that asynchronously exchanges messages, or talks to, disparate networks.

It's one thing to make software that talks to disparate productivity applications and treats them the same, but it's another to mesh with the company's procurement policies.

For example, before a service is selected, a calendar must be consulted. After the service is reserved or changed, the calendar must be automatically updated. Also, the software has to compensate for real-time service changes, such as an airline seat that can be available one minute and booked the next.

Grady said that because of these complexities, there has been a lack of innovation in online services procurement, leaving employees to manually procure services. Rearden EBS can cut out complexity and time, saving corporations money.

The concept of employee procurement services over the Internet is not new. But the complexity of the technology and the dynamically changing variables of available services have thwarted previous efforts from HP and Microsoft.

HP abandoned its eSpeak software offering years ago, while Microsoft's Hailstorm initiative never caught on with customers or developers.

Grady said he believes Rearden has successfully turned the complexity corner.