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Jan Baan launches Web services firm

The enterprise software legend shifts his attention to Web services. Say hello to start-up Cordys and its integration software.

Jan Baan, best known as the driving force behind business software maker Baan, has shifted his attention to Web services with the launch of a new company, Cordys.

The Web services software maker, based in Putten, the Netherlands, started up on Thursday with the introduction of its first product line, a Web services package that aims to serve as a "unified architecture" for enterprise applications. The software will also bear the name Cordys (pronounced "cord-iss").

Baan, who in the 1970s founded the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software maker that still bears his name, will serve as chief executive at Cordys.

The Baan company, once a Wall Street favorite that competed closely with likes of SAP and PeopleSoft, saw its market capitalization plummet to roughly $530 million from more than $8 billion in the space of two years, as the market for enterprise software contracted. The ERP specialist was sold to Invensys for $708 million in May 2000, and in July 2003 was bought for $135 million by SSA Global, where it continues to operate as a business unit.

Cordys has been operating in "stealth mode" since Jan Baan began working on its development in 2001, the company's president for the Americas region, Justin Anderson, said. At the core of the start-up are people that Baan has been working with for more than 15 years, Anderson said.

The unified architecture approach is what marks Cordys out from other Web services companies, Anderson said. Rather than offer individual Web services products for portal applications, application servers or integration brokers, the company sells a framework to meld all of those technologies.

"You can take disparate legacy systems and tie them together to create new business logic, and expose this in a unified format," Anderson said. "And importantly, it's not a proprietary framework--it's built on XML and open standards. So it makes a lot more sense than trying to tie these pieces together on your own."

Anderson said Cordys should help businesses identify opportunities by bringing together elements of an enterprise system. For example, a manufacturing company might find, using its ERP systems, that it has excess inventory. It could use the Web services tool to automatically market that stock in an online auction. Any sales figures could then be sent to a sales force automation application, Anderson said. The result could be the creation of a revenue stream from unloading the excess inventory.

Anderson agreed that Cordys will face stiff competition from larger rivals, such as IBM's WebSphere, Microsoft's .Net and SAP's NetWeaver. However, he pointed out that those Web services integration products are tied to each company's enterprise software lineup, unlike Cordys.

Ron Schmelzer, an analyst for research company ZapThink, said it could be hard for Cordys to break into the market, as Web services software has largely been sold to software companies' existing customers. But he warned that it is foolish to underestimate Jan Baan's sales capabilities.

"Jan claims this is the evolution of what he was doing with Baan," Schmelzer said. "He's attempting to make business applications work together more effectively, and he's melding capabilities across these systems. What remains to be seen is whether or not Cordys can carve out a niche among customers that want the quality of IBM's Web services products, but offer different capabilities."

Schmelzer said that even though Cordys does not have an installed base of customers to sell to, it has come out of the gate with good technology, a sensible message and sufficient financial backing to make a splash. The key to the company's success, he said, will be luring customers away from their existing software vendors.