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WebMethods wraps process software in Fabric

The new software is designed to simplify the process of knitting together back-office business applications.

WebMethods on Wednesday shipped new software designed to simplify the process of stitching together back-office business applications.

The software, WebMethods Fabric, is a suite of tools for automating multistep processes, such as handling insurance claims, purchase requests or complex financial deals.

Instead of threading individual programs together, one at a time, as companies used to do to share data, Fabric lets them map out an entire process and then turn that process into a working program. Such tools fall under the ungainly industry term "business process management," or BPM.

Fabric represents about a year of work weaving together a number of products from three acquisitions made by WebMethods last year, said David Mitchell, who took over as CEO of the company earlier this month. It includes tools for modeling business processes, software to move data between applications, and tools to monitor the progress of ongoing operations.

The idea behind business process management is that business people use workflow modeling tools to design business process, such as routing a purchase order. Programmers, in turn, use those models to build applications that transfer data between systems, such as manufacturing and sales applications.

WebMethods Fabric is based on a set of industry standards, including Web services protocols, and introduces a set of tools for modeling and tracking business process workflows, according to the company. Previously, the company's software used proprietary adapters to move data between programs.

Integrating disparate systems is consistently a top priority for technology managers in big companies, which typically have a mix of old and new programs that rarely communicate well. Increasingly, companies are looking for cheaper ways to move data between software programs using standards-based products, according to analysts.

WebMethods competes with IBM's software group as well as integration companies, such as Tibco, Mitchell said. Many middleware software providers, including BEA Systems and Microsoft, have included business process automation tools in their server software suites.

The product launch also represents an important step in the company's plan to regain profitability, Mitchell said.

WebMethods announced on Wednesday that it expects to report revenue between $50 million and $51 million, at the high end of its projected range, and that it will narrow its loss to seven to nine cents a share for the quarter ending Sept. 30. Mitchell said the company, which has not been consistently profitable, achieved profitability on a pro forma basis last quarter on the strength of software license sales and lowered operating costs.

Mitchell said he expects that the average deal for WebMethods Fabric will be between $400,000 and $1 million.