Hubspan Automates B2B from the Cloud
February 15, 2011 Alex Woodie
Whether or not your applications run in “the cloud” or on a server located in room 23, you have a need for data and process integration. One vendor that’s trying to leverage the software as a service (SaaS) advantage for on-premise and hosted integration routines is Hubspan. Last week, the Seattle, Washington, software developer unveiled a cloud-based integration solution for companies in the biotech industry.
Hubspan was founded in 2000 with the goal of delivering B2B integration as a service that’s accessed over the Web. Since then, some of the terms have changed, notably “the cloud,” which now seems to be everywhere. But the company’s primary aim is still the same: finding a way to simplify the tedious task of connecting the enterprise management systems of buyers, sellers, and other participants in various industrial and commercial supply chains.
In many respects, Hubspan’s offering can be thought of as a hosted EDI translator on steroids. Instead of licensing EDI translation software from Inovis or Sterling (bought by GXS and IBM, respectively), and then paying a business analyst to meticulously map each transaction from the outside world into their particular ERP implementation, an IBM i shop could sign up with Hubspan, leverage the vendor’s experience with a particular ERP system, and then leave Hubspan to run everything.
In addition to message translation and integration services, Hubspan’s core solution, called the WebSpan SaaS Integration Platform, provides data validation, choreography, activity monitoring, and multi-party routing capabilities. Hubspan’s business plan centers on having the experience and automation expertise to get B2B connections up and running faster than the do-it-yourselfer can accomplish it, especially when there are lots of supply chain participants in play, and the service level agreements (SLAs) are strict. It also supports data masking and encryption.
At its core, Hubspan gives companies the freedom to work with any type of protocol or business process, says Margaret Dawson, Hubspan’s vice president of marketing and product management.
“In the old days, a large company would tell their suppliers and even their customers, ‘If you want to do business with us, you will send us information in this format and leverage this way of communicating electronically.’ That’s just not realistic any more,” Dawson tells IT Jungle. “Companies are realizing they’ve got to allow their customers to use whatever system they have to do business with them in order to keep those customers and grow their business overall.”
Hubspan handles all types of B2B connections, whether they’re using traditional X12 EDI over a VAN, AS2 over the Internet, SOAP- or REST-based Web services, or participating in a B2B community like RosettaNet or one of the product data synchronization services. The company integrates with all types of ERP systems, including those from SAP, Oracle, Infor, Lawson, and JD Edwards, and stand-alone procurement and e-commerce solutions.
Its hosted B2B offering is particularly valued when a company finds maintaining B2B processes with all these different systems and formats and protocols and business processes is just too much work for its internal IT department. Hubspan counts 20,000 companies as customers, including some big names like Boeing, Whirlpool, and Cisco.
“Managing all those connections–the transformation, the business rules, and message exchange–is very hard to do yourself,” Dawson says. “We have a lot of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies that try to do it themselves … but find they need anywhere from four to 10-plus full-time IT staff just to manage the connections and the partner and customer community. So this becomes one area that makes sense to outsource from a core competency perspective.”
Hubspan develops and runs its own multi-tenant cloud infrastructure in two data centers. The WebSpan SaaS Integration Platform uses a lot of Java code running on Red Hat Linux servers. The company has a close partnership with IBM for various WebSphere applications that go into WebSpan. The company processes more than 100 million transactions per year, according to Dawson.
Last week, Hubspan unveiled the Customer Integration for Biotech, which promises to provide B2B connectivity for all the different ERP and back-end procurement systems that are commonly used in biotechnology and life sciences industry. The company already claims more than 2,100 customers in this field, including “hundreds of the leading research universities and hospitals.”