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9/14/2003
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Correlate Events And Grab Opportunities

Integration software primed to move closer to the heart of business operations

Jim Elert, CIO of Trinity Health, has so many systems scattered throughout 47 hospitals across seven states that he thinks about using Tibco Software Inc.'s integration software to get them all to work together, not to find and correlate business-process events.

VIVEK RANADIVE PHOTO

Businesses must become "anticipatory enterprises," Ranadive says.

Photo by Bill Reitzel
But integration software, sitting at the center of a variety of systems and moving data between them, is in a position to capture software events and develop a picture of the business processes going on above them, allowing quick interventions where problems occur or opportunities arise. That's the point Tibco chairman Vivek Ranadive will make when he addresses attendees at the company's user conference in Phoenix this week. He'll be setting dates for when customers can expect to see features that enable this vision in the vendor's software. "Both the greatest cost and opportunity lie in events outside the routine," he says.

By year's end, the company will offer a business-rules engine that can be linked to Tibco Integration Platform's integration stack, as well as the ability to link business-process modeling in Tibco Designer to a map of the underlying systems' infrastructure. The recently released Tibco BusinessFactor monitoring software will be further enhanced with the ability to capture business events that can be displayed as key performance indicators that business analysts understand.

All this, Ranadive says, can help businesses become "anticipatory enterprises" that understand what recent business-process events mean about customers' next needs. Instead of a supply chain, he sees an "eager chain" of suppliers who know when a manufacturer needs another shipment before an order is placed.

Elert is beginning to see the value. One Trinity application tied to a business-rules engine already is watching as doctors enter prescriptions online. By correlating the prescription to what Trinity Health already knows about a patient, the system can send an alert back to the hospital that a lab test indicates that patient shouldn't be on a certain drug. "It's saving lives," Elert says. Extending that kind of capability throughout the integration layer would have a similar good effect on the business as a whole, he says.

Tibco isn't the only integration vendor to start emphasizing the value of event capture, correlation, and analysis in the integration layer. WebMethods Inc., which, like Tibco, holds 8% of the U.S. integration market, is on a time frame similar to Tibco's for adding a business-rules engine and combining business-process design with infrastructure mapping, says Jim Ivers, senior director of product marketing at webMethods. It plans to disclose details at the end of October.

"You can see a lot about how your business is functioning from events flowing through the integration layer," says Andy Miller, VP of technology architecture at office-supplies provider Corporate Express Inc., which uses webMethods' middleware to help it determine if there's a problem with order fulfillment.

In many cases, the integration vendors are being pushed beyond their traditional stronghold by the entry of application-server vendors, such as BEA Systems Inc. and Sun Microsystems, into their space. But by positioning the integration layer to provide a way to monitor business processes, they're capitalizing on a valuable strategic direction, says Susan Eustis, president of Wintergreen Research. "There was no intensive-care ward in the hospital until cardiac monitors were invented," she notes. Until businesses can recognize threatening events by what's going on in their software, she says, there's no way they can know how to react.

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