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Cashing in on middleware

UniKix wants to cash in as middleware products become increasingly important to e-commerce.

Transaction processing middleware isn't the sort of stuff that makes Web surfers' hearts pump or inspires racy headlines. But it is becoming increasingly important as more companies expand simple Web-based information systems into new electronic commerce and order-entry applications.

Middleware veteran UniKix Technologies is attempting to cash in on the trend with a new release of its namesake TP middleware, which features integration with Web standards such as HTML and emerging standards, such as Java.

Other software makers are following suit. Most notable is Microsoft's Transaction Server software for building ActiveX-based Web applications to process transactions. Oracle has added transactional capability to its Web Application Server.

At the same time, Sybase is beta testing transaction software, code-named Jaguar. And upstart transaction software companies, such as Kiva Software, are specifically targeting Web and Java-based transactional applications.

All of the packages are intended for building new, large-scale, Web-based applications such as order entry, reservation, and electronic commerce systems that process hundreds, even thousands, of transactions per minute.

UniKix differs from other packages in that it is intended to give users of IBM's mainframe and Unix-based Customer Information Control System (CICS) middleware immediate Web access.

UniKix is a CICS-compatible system that runs on Unix servers. The company says UniKix can save large companies, now using mainframes, up to 50 percent of their annual IS cost for hardware, software, and support.

The new version, UniKix 5.0, includes UniKix Web interface package, called WebKix, for hooking Java-based and HTML clients into CICS applications. The new version also includes mainframe-class security tools, parallel processing features, and integration with IBM's MQSeries messaging middleware.

UniKix's one weakness is object support. Unlike competitive packages, the software does not yet work with increasingly important object-request brokers. UniKix intends to support those standards in the future.

UniKix 5.0 is available now, priced from $16,000.