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Beyond Integration

IBM, Tibco, and other vendors aim to tie business processes to integration software

IBM and Tibco Software Inc., the two leading integration-software vendors, are engaged in an arms race to tie business-process management into their monitoring and integration software.

The discussion is moving beyond connecting applications, says Jon Derome, an analyst with the Yankee Group. Integration vendors "are engaged in a new strategic direction," he says. Version 5.0 of IBM's WebSphere Business Integration software contains several features for building and correlating business processes. Features such as combining business-process modeling and software-infrastructure modeling into one toolset will debut by year's end, says Jeff Henry, marketing director for WebSphere Business Integration.

IBM is producing industry-specific versions of Business Integration Message Broker and Business Integration Event Broker that relate business processes found in the health-care, retail, and banking industries to the integration software. For each industry, users model "end-to-end business processes, link them to business-performance indicators, and monitor the results of those processes," says Marie Wieck, VP of WebSphere Business Integration.

The business processes can be linked to the systems necessary to implement them, with connectivity to needed applications or to external business partners. The performance indicators that a business constructs, such as the conversion rate of Web-site visitors into customers, give closer-to-real-time feedback than Web-log analysis or analysis of historical data.

Probes and sniffers set in the integration software layer can monitor apps and the messaging among them. "There are tools now that never existed before," Henry says, allowing the monitoring of software activity to become measures of business-process effectiveness.

This "will enable fundamental changes in business processing. This is going to be a fundamental shift in application architecture," Gartner analyst Roy Schulte says. But does it lead to the "predictive enterprise" that Tibco chairman Vivek Ranadive described earlier this month when he disclosed changes coming by mid-2004 to the Tibco line, which he says presage such an enterprise? The underlying systems analyze business processes and events, helping businesses anticipate where their next problem or opportunity lies. For instance, a product called Enterprise Management Insight will link information gained from monitoring systems, such as an application monitor that watches response times on a Web site, to systems-management tools.

Analyst Schulte says he's a little skeptical that there can ever be a truly predictive enterprise. "Event tracking won't make us omniscient," he says. "You can't predict when people will buy things. We will only have limited knowledge of what's happening in the world."

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