Furthering their delivery of Web services support to corporate users, integration software rivals Tibco Software and Vitria Technology last week released tools that combine the emerging technology with business process management capabilities.
Analysts said the latest announcements reflect a move by enterprise application integration (EAI) vendors to offer bona fide mission-critical Web services technology. And some users are already taking the new offerings and using them in integration projects.
For example, Qwest Communications International said that it plans next month to launch an integration framework that links its internal order entry, service assurance, customer relationship management, billing and inventory systems. Using new tools from Tibco, all of the data in those systems will be made available via Web services.
Tibco announced the addition of Web services support to its business process management software, which lets users coordinate automated transaction processes and workflows across applications. The software vendor said it has now completed an initiative to blend Web services functionality into its entire EAI suite.
Meanwhile, Vitria released Version 2.0 of a similar Web services module for its business process management integration software (see box).
Seattle-based CapitalStream, a company that processes business credit data for financial institutions, used a beta-test version of Tibco's new Web services tool to create direct links between an online credit application form and the back-end approval mechanism.
The project, carried out with Bank of the West, was completed in February.
By eliminating the need to re-enter data and streamlining workflows, the links have in some cases helped cut application processing times from five days to just one, said Jeff Dirks, CapitalStream's president.
It would be impractical for CapitalStream to try to recast an entire 20-step online application process with Web services technology, Dirks said. But Web services can be used to streamline certain parts of the procedure, he added.
"The whole process doesn't have to be Web service-enabled, just one piece of it," Dirks said. "That way, we can be strategic about how we use the technology and only implement it when we can define a clear return on investment."
While Web services technology such as Simple Object Access Protocol messaging and the Web Services Description Language might make it easy for users to expose application interfaces on their own, Andrea Eubanks, Tibco's director of products, said EAI vendors can still play a role in coordinating integration processes and linking to legacy systems.
But the use of Web services links does mark a departure from the messaging roots of integration middleware, Eubanks added. "Messaging is just a pipeline," she said. "We're no longer saying our way is better than anyone else's."
Tyler McDaniel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group, said Web services may initially be used more as an integration technology than as a component of business-to-business applications. They give EAI vendors the ability to target tactical deployments by users instead of massive and expensive enterprisewide projects, he noted.