OS/400 Edition
Volume 2, Number 39 -- October 15, 2002

Metaserver Courts Midmarket with BPI in a Box

by Alex Woodie

As Metaserver prepared its namesake business-process-integration solution for the next release, it asked itself this question: "How does the average midmarket company implement a BPI solution?" The answer is, "They haven't," said Richard Schultz, Metaserver's cofounder and chief executive. With Metaserver 4.0, announced yesterday, the company hopes to eliminate the complexity and programming requirements that have traditionally put BPI solutions beyond the reach of the average midmarket shop.


Metaserver is an application development and runtime environment that is designed to help programmers and business analysts build composite applications, and streamline the workflow of existing ones, by integrating--at the business process level--applications running on various platforms throughout a company. In this way, companies can roll out new functionality without rewriting business logic that has been running fine for years on OS/400, mainframe, Unix, and other types of servers.

With Metaserver 4.0, which has been shipping since September 30, the New Haven, Connecticut, company says it has brought all the pieces together into a single package, which is a self-contained, out-of-the-box BPI solution for the midmarket. Some of these pieces, such as the capability to tap 5250 and 3270 data streams, have been attained through a strategic partnership the company signed this year with SEAGULL, which is also reselling Metaserver, as part of its LegaSuite toolkit. Other components, such as adapters to a range of popular ERP packages and other applications, are available through a strategic reseller partnership Metaserver formed earlier this year with iWay Software (an Information Builders company).

But the most important new features in this release lie within Metaserver itself, said Schultz. For starters, new wizards added to the Metaserver Modeling Environment GUI allow companies to get a better handle on complex data structures as they begin to manage their processes with Metaserver. The modeler now allows users to define more advanced forms of processing, such as concurrent processing, looping, conditional processing, and exception handling. The modeler also features improved data mapping and gives developers the capability to see exactly what field, process, or applications are represented by the graphical icons they are connecting on the modeling screen.

Schultz emphasized the improvements that Metaserver has made to the software's capability to map complex data structures, and noted that IT-intensive industries, such as the insurance industry, have tested Metaserver's capabilities. "Complexity grows exponentially as the number of processes increase," he said. "We had limited complex-data-mapping capability [in Metaserver 3.0]. We could match a name to a name, but we didn't have the capability to map complex data. . . . We have figured out how to greatly improve the dynamic in which" those systems are connected, in Metaserver 4.0.

Metaserver has also answered customers' requests for better error handling with the software. In Metaserver 4.0, when an error is returned, it can be handled just like any other data condition and treated as another business process, instead of simply returning an error message to the user's screen, the company said. The company's execution environment, called the Business Process Integration engine, has also been updated to support the new error-handling and advanced-processing capabilities. Additionally, a Java-based Web application server is no longer required in order to run the engine.

All of these enhancements point to the company's desire to position Metaserver as an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box integration solution that can show results in a matter of weeks or months (not years, like the tier-one integration infrastructure vendors, Schultz said), and it never costs more than $300,000. "The goal is to have Metaserver used by analysts," as opposed to programmers, and to enable them to take their design "from conception to implementation in one fell swoop," he said.

As a company, Schultz said, Metaserver hasn't grown as fast as his partners and investors originally expected, because of the lackluster economy and lowered IT spending, but Metaserver had a decent year nonetheless, with just under $3 million in sales. The 50-employee company, which has received about $31 million in venture capital, has been biding its time to enact expansion plans. The company has about 20 customers, Schultz said, and with new customers coming on board at the rate of one every two weeks, the company expects to double its revenues this year. In the coming months, the company expects to announce customer successes in Oregon and Alaska, where legacy OS/400 processes were tapped for integration with new applications.

"Our biggest competitor is market awareness, and customers keeping things in-house," Schultz said. "What we're seeing now is that customers are completing projects with us that they weren't even going to do. To us, that's the most compelling ROI."

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Metaserver Courts Midmarket with BPI in a Box

News Briefs and Product Shorts

Alex Woodie

Managing Editor
Shannon Pastore

Contributing Editors:
Dan Burger
Joe Hertvik
Shannon O'Donnell
Timothy Prickett Morgan

Publisher and
Advertising Director:

Jenny Thomas

Advertising Sales Representative
Kim Reed

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Last Updated: 10/15/02
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