The extranet sector, an emerging market for connecting the corporate intranets of business partners, has spawned a new product.
PFN today introduced Continuum, which it describes as a technology that lets companies building extranets to share proprietary information with business partners beyond their own intranet.
"Extranets take advantage of investments that firms are making on their intranets," said Ron Butman, PFN's CEO and cofounder. "If you look at the organizations you interact with, it seems to us that the logical next step is to embed connectivity or intelligent routing so you can exchange information with partners."
Continuum allows companies with intranets, including those with widely scattered sites, to design and deploy extranets. PFN Continuum delivers global intranet-to-intranet connectivity, integrates data from multiple sources, and provides permission and security features for routing proprietary information.
Continuum includes two pieces of software. One, a client-side server, sits on a corporate intranet behind the firewall and determines who is entitled to see what information. The domain server, currently housed at PFN's sites, replicates that data onto intranet servers at the relevant outside partners.
As a result, extranets using Continuum avoid security issues created by opening an intranet to outsiders, which could lead to security breaches. The replication function eliminates that security concern, one that companies like Arachnid Software address by beefing up security for extranets.
Although the domain server is now housed at PFN, it could be placed elsewhere, including inside a corporate firewall, at an ISP, or with an Internet backbone provider.
Initially, PFN is targeting Wall Street firms through a partnership with First Call, an electronic distributor of real-time financial information that will make its data available to investment houses via an extranet built with Continuum.
First Call data can be integrated with an organization's internal and external documents and delivered on any TCP/IP-based intranet to specific organizations, groups, or individuals.
David Marshak, vice president of the Patricia Seybold Group, said PFN addresses supply chain management: linking producers, resellers, purchasing agents, end users, and others. "PFN could serve a key role in ultimately enabling an industrywide information supply chain."
Pricing for the PFN-First Call Wall Street service starts at $995 monthly per node, which is a single connection between two organizations' intranets. For investment dealers, 25 nodes is the minimum installation, while investment managers can order an 8-node installation. Pricing includes an unlimited internal intranet license of PFN Continuum software.
First Call's Wall Street extranet will be widely available by July, with additional vertical markets to be rolled out throughout 1997. PFN's Continuum server software runs on Unix platforms and will be available on Windows NT in the third quarter.
Database vendor Informix Software will jointly market PFN's extranet product through its worldwide sales force. PFN will probably target the insurance industry as its next vertical market, with manufacturing and pharmaceuticals seen as future targets.