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7/10/2003
03:03 PM
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Integration Everywhere

Cast Iron router lets companies collaborate with suppliers without having to be experts in XML or EDI

A company headed by Fred Meyer, former chief strategist at Tibco Software Inc., has brought out a simplified, preconfigured piece of hardware that Meyer claims can solve 80% of the application-integration problem. At the heart of Cast Iron Systems' Application Router is its message handling and routing software.

Application Router features a front end that lets users set up EDI or XML exchanges with partner companies without needing to know the intricacies of those languages. On a more basic level, the device lists attributes of a sender company's document on the left side of a split screen, then lists how those attributes should appear to the receiver on the right. Application Router is priced from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on configuration.

PrimeSource Food Service Equipment Inc., a distributor of restaurant equipment, has been using Application Router for two months. CIO Pat Lawrence says he can define a PrimeSource purchase order, then map it to how each vendor would like to receive it, whether that's EDI, XML, or even Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. This has allowed PrimeSource to forgo spending $60,000 on a system to automate exchanges with EDI-equipped manufacturers, something the distributor wants to avoid since only a quarter of its suppliers use EDI, Lawrence says.

Even large companies using full-bore enterprise application-integration products such as those from Tibco still leave areas uncovered by application integration, Cast Iron's Meyer says. "Everywhere you see an EAI or application server product, you'll probably find a gray ring around it" where the sinews of integration don't reach. Cast Iron's goal, Meyer says, is to fill those cracks.

Illustration by Tom Francisco/Graphistock

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