All Aboard the iWay Bus!
by Alex Woodie
Spun off from software giant Information Builders last year, iWay Software is becoming the de facto standard for enterprise data and application integration, with more than 200 adapters for connecting applications, databases, platforms, and messaging infrastructures. In the last month, the company has announced partnerships with three software vendors with ties to the OS/400 platform--Lakeview Technology, Karora Technologies, and Metaserver--further demonstrating that iWay is on a growth path and the market is responding.
The technology behind iWay's suite of adapters and message broker middleware originated in the early 1990s, as the EDA suite, at Information Builders, a New York City company renowned for its business intelligence software, Focus and WebFocus. At Information Builders, the EDA suite was largely used to gain access to data residing in prepackaged applications and database systems, for the purpose of exposing that data to Information Builders' business intelligence and reporting software.
That would soon change. After Y2K, ERP spending dropped drastically, as part of an industry-wide spending lock-down. In its place, companies were pushing forward on e-business initiatives, such as CRM, supply chain management, and e-commerce projects. The surge in interest in enterprise application integration can be closely tied to companies reaching into their back-end ERP systems to grab data they needed to fuel new e-business projects on the Web.
And that's exactly what Information Builders aimed to do when it spun off its EDA business into a new subsidiary, iWay Software, in February 2001 (which also served the purpose of allowing Information Builders to build its image as a vendor of business intelligence software). At the same time, iWay Software took its EDA software and created an XML messaging system, called the Enterprise Integration Suite, and a collection of more than 120 adapters, which it named the Intelligent Adapter Suite. Last month, the company announced Enterprise Integration Suite 2002, which includes new Web services-oriented modules, including the Business Services Engine, and the Business Process Registry, which uses ebXML, an emerging dialect of XML for managing transactions using Web services.
iWay's adapter collection is, and will continue to be, the key to the success of the company. Although Information Builders is a privately held company, it disclosed its subsidiary’s revenue was $43 million in business its first year. iWay maintains a research and development staff to build its own connectors, and uses ERP vendors' published APIs when and where it can. For connecting to databases, such as DB2/400 and countless others, it likes to use SQL. iWay officials say companies that install its adapters don't have to write a line of code, that their adapters are truly plug-and-play and can be manipulated from a GUI. (See the entire list of iWay adapters.)
What sets iWay's adapters apart from others in the industry is that users can buy only what they need and use them on a stand-alone basis, without buying the entire Enterprise Integration Suite messaging system. So if a company has already bought and installed a messaging system from, say, TIBCO Software or webMethods, it can continue to use those messaging systems and plug the iWay adapters in where needed.
This adapter-agnostic approach has also helped iWay to attract a large number of business partners, including operating system vendors, such as IBM and Microsoft; enterprise software vendors, such as i2 Technologies and Oracle; and messaging infrastructure providers, such as N EON Systems, Covast, and XAware.
Metaserver, which writes business process integration software, recently announced a partnership with iWay in which it will OEM iWay's adapters and resell them as Metalinks. John Hopkins, Metaserver's director of business development, says it wasn't so much the quantity of iWay's adapters that led the company to sign on with iWay instead of other enterprise application integration vendors, such as Peregrine Systems, but that it has proved its worth in the field.
"The numbers are cool. But what drove us [to partner with iWay] is that they're proven," Hopkins says. "They use it themselves…We feel they're the market leader, and it gives us a lot of credibility going into a sales situation."
Hopkins says companies that are considering buying Metaserver's business-process-integration development and runtime environment have a need to connect to CRM systems from Siebel Systems, Vantive (which has been acquired by PeopleSoft), and Clarify (which has been acquired by Amdocs). iWay has adapters for each of these CRM systems. And Hopkins notes that iWay's adapters typically cost less than $50,000. "That's another reason we went with iWay," he says. "I think they're a bargain."
iWay has a different sort of partnership with Lakeview Technology, the Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois, vendor of multiplatform data replication and OS/400 and Windows high availability software. iWay will be OEMing Lakeview's OmniReplicator data replication software as part of its extract, transform, and load software, called ETL Manager, which is used to build data warehouses. With OmniReplicator under the covers, ETL Manager will be able to access only the data that has been changed, improving data load times and accuracy. When Information Builders created iWay to sell its EDA suite, it sent its ETL business to iWay as well.
Karora also became a reseller of iWay adapters this year. Karora, co-founded in 2000 by Aussie Pete McBride--who also had a hand in founding LANSA--occupies a spot in the middleware market similar to iWay's. Karora sells an XML messaging system called XML Connector and an application-to-application suite called App Connector, for which it already has about a dozen prebuilt adapters.
The decision to partner with iWay to gain access to its collection of adapters was a no-brainer, says McBride. "Geez, if we had to build 140 adapters, we could be doing that 10 years from now and never sell one," he says. "For us, it was a way to leapfrog, to not have to do a whole bunch of busy work."
McBride says iWay's stand-alone adapters should be attractive to midrange shops that have a one-time need to build data paths from their AS/400 or RS/6000 system to a new e-business system. "There's a lot of noise in EAI [enterprise application integration], but where the rubber hits the road, is getting people doing things on a much simpler basis, not full BPI [business process integration]," he said. "For the most part, people just want to adapt one or two things: 'I need to get information from here to the AS/400. I don't want to have to mess with it.' That's my perspective, as a midrange guy."
The fact that iWay uses native APIs also means that Karora's customers won't have to rely on ODBC or JDBC connections for database applications. "You can always get access through ODBC or JDBC, which is good for getting information out of the database. If you want to get data back in, you might corrupt data integrity," McBride says. "It's almost like they're building into a bus, and they plug into the back side, and you get the front side, courtesy of iWay."
That image of a standard iWay bus is also shared by Metaserver's Hopkins, who sees many software vendors these days going to iWay for their application and data connection needs. "Their connectors have been becoming a commodity, and they're a good vendor for the commodity," he says.
All aboard the iWay bus!
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Last Updated: 6/25/02
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