Path to two-way portals

Sybase is now looking into incorporating a new software that will help integrate business processes from third-party business partners and business-to-business exchanges.
Written by John S. McCright, Contributor and  Grant Du Bois, Contributor

Today's corporate portals are, for the most part, one-way streets on which information flows to employees from internal databases and external news feeds.

Sybase Inc. is looking to bring some two-way traffic to those streets by extending the reach of its EP (Enterprise Portal) to integrate business processes from third-party business partners and business-to-business exchanges.

The B2B Extensions to Sybase EP, which the company plans to announce this week, add a new layer of software that can trigger events based on business rules and also provide interfaces to a variety of exchanges.

The first set of extensions, due late this quarter, enables an IT manager to graphically map the movement of large amounts of data between companies over the Internet, said Sybase officials in Emeryville, Calif. Sybase created the extensions through a partnership with enterprise application integration developer Casahl Technology Inc.

In the fourth quarter, Sybase will ship another set of B2B Extensions that adds support for more protocols, enabling communication with a wider array of B2B exchanges.

The company will also unveil at its TechWave user conference this week a new capability for Sybase EP designed for mobile users. The new feature will automatically detect what kind of device an employee is using to connect to the portal and translate data to the proper format, based on the size of the device's display.

Companies such as WebMethods Inc., of Fairfax, Va., and Casahl, of San Ramon, Calif., currently provide the type of integration Sybase is offering, but it hasn't been widely available as part of the portal platform itself, according to Thomas Koulopoulos, an analyst with The Delphi Group Inc., in Boston.

The exchange layer differentiates Sybase EP from most other portal offerings by creating a platform that reaches across corporate boundaries to encompass business rules in a number of organizations, Koulopoulos added.

"Now we are looking at the entire stream of business processes," he said. "Sybase has a platform that cuts across the entire value chain."

Some observers say mapping business processes with software is the key to future e-commerce growth, though they acknowledge that such a goal is still far off because existing applications can't possibly map the volume of business processes.

Taking a step toward that goal, enterprise portal maker Sequoia Software Corp. is partnering with an established IT consulting company to provide the external integration it hopes will complement its portal software. The Columbia, Md., company this week will announce a deal with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC to distribute Sequoia's XML (Extensible Markup Language) Portal Server 3.0.

Under the agreement, New York-based Cap Gemini will provide its investment banking, financial services, manufacturing and technology clients with strategic consulting and integration services for Sequoia's XML Portal Server. The management and IT consultancy will also make these services available to Sequoia customers, officials said.

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