Boomi Adds Document Management to B2B Integration Tool
Published: May 9, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Boomi Software this week unveiled a new release of its Boomi Integration Platform that blurs the line between document management and business-to-business (B2B) integration tools. With a version of Jinfonet's JReport server built in, Integration Platform version 3.3 gains the capability to pull information from the various systems it connects, and to generate documents, such as invoices and shipment orders, from the transactional data that it moves. New drag and drop business process workflow mapping and error-handling capabilities round out the release.
The Boomi Integration Platform is a collection of Java-based tools used for a variety of integration scenarios, including EDI translation, AS1/AS2/AS3 transport, 1Sync (formerly UCCnet) data pool synchronization, and many other forms of application-to-application (A2A) and B2B integration. The software works with a wide range of data, ranging from flat files and the EDI standards to relational databases, MQ data, and XML-based data. The software is typically installed on Windows, Linux, and Unix servers, but it can support transactions to and from practically any operating system.
Boomi's software doesn't run on the iSeries, but its developers and service professionals are well-versed with the OS/400 server, says Rick Nucci, the company's co-founder and chief technology officer. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Boomi's 500 customers are using the software with OS/400 servers and DB2/400 data, Nucci says. The iSeries also fits well into the growing Philadelphia-area company's target market of midsize companies with between $100 million and $1 billion in annual revenues. Distribution, manufacturing, and retail are the company's three top markets--all OS/400 strongholds.
"We do any sort of business transaction integration, either between systems or trading partners," Nucci says. "Our message is the application should be easy to set up and easy to maintain, and that users should be able to use it within a visual environment."
Boomi set out to bolster that message of easy-to-use, visual integration with version 3.3, which the company formally announced today. An embedded version of JReport gives users the capability to generate business documents, including invoices, bills of lading, shipment orders, inventory reports, historical sales data--as well as summary reports--from their existing ERP applications and business data. The reports can delivered in PDF, Excel, or RTF formats, and distributed via any of Boomi's communication options, including e-mail, FTP, or HTTP.
The embedded version of JReport also gives Boomi customers the capability to generate custom reports, such as an end-of-month report on current inventory based on summary data pulled from transactional logs. The capability could also be used to generate real-time alerts, sometimes referred to as business service management, or BSM. For example, Boomi's product could be set up to generate a report if an invoice with a particularly large amount was generated, or for invoices generated with a certain date range, Nucci says.
The new capability directly serves customers needs, Nucci says. "The data we're integrating real time, between systems, is the same data customers say they want documents generated for," he says.
Boomi Integration Platform 3.3 also gains visual mapping features that allow users to create links between systems by dragging and dropping icons on a screen. Users just link the sources and destinations together, and the software performs the necessary data transformation and synchronization.
Boomi hopes its new error-handling capabilities in version 3.3 will differentiate itself from its competitors. With this release, the software will automatically generate an error message when something goes wrong with a transaction, such as purchase order information was incorrectly entered into an ERP system, and the Boomi EDI System cannot process it, the company says. Instead of spitting out a cryptic error code that only a developer could understand, Boomi made sure the errors and recommended solutions to the problem are in plain language, so regular employees can fix the problems themselves.
Getting trading partners up and running with the Boomi software will also be easier with version 3.3, which adds a "zero-install" client. Instead of distributing a CD to every partner that needs a copy of the Boomi client software, partners can download it off the Internet, given the right URL. Fixes are distributed in the same way.
Lastly, version 3.3 delivers support for new energy industry standards, including standards from the Gas Industry Standards Board (GISB) and the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB).
A Boomi Outlook
Nucci sees Boomi continuing to add more business process management capabilities into its products, and to make it easier for less technical personnel to accomplish needed tasks. Sometimes, this will pit the company against capabilities already found in existing ERP systems. "We're trying to fill the void of what might be missing in those systems, as it relates to moving information in and out of those systems," Nucci says.
Nucci says to expect more innovation from Boomi, which was recently voted one of the fastest-growing companies in the Philadelphia area. One of the things allowing the company to innovate is its lack of a "legacy" code base, he says. A new AS2 delivery mechanism bolted on top of an older EDI translation product is an example of what happenes when vendors are married to legacy code bases.
Similarly, Boomi looks to take business from EDI vendor's that rely on running a value-added network (VAN) and not developing product. (VANs have largely fallen by the way side with the introduction of secure EDI delivery over the Internet via AS2.) "We feel that gives us a good competitive edge," he says.
The second big thing Boomi has going for it, Nucci says, is its professional service team. The company makes an extra effort at the first point of contact to connect a customer with the employee who has the most experience in a particular area. "Say a customer wants to integrate an AS/400 with a WMS running on Linux and an Oracle database," Nucci says. "If we have people who have done stuff with that scenario, we try to put that call through to them from the get go." In some cases, this level of personalization and hand-holding means Boomi's pros must be patient and wait as various customers progress from setup to testing to going live. "It's a matter of being able to multi-task," Nucci says.
Boomi Integration Platform 3.3 is available now. License fees range from $40,000 to $200,000. For more information, go to www.boomi.com.