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Vitria ties it all together

Vitria Technology's new software links a hodge-podge of packaged applications, custom-written software, and database applications into one working business application.

Vitria Technology will on Monday announce a new entry in the growing category of software that links a hodge-podge of packaged applications, custom-written software, and database applications into one working business application.

Vitria's Business Agiliti is a server-based middleware software package for integrating the disparate computer systems, found in most businesses, into new applications. For instance, one of Vitria's higher profile customers, Federal Express, is using the software to tie together bar-code scanners, databases, and custom applications, all of which speak different languages, into a package tracking system.

The software is the latest entry in a new category of tools that let corporate developers quickly link multiple dissimilar applications without extensive hand coding or outside systems integration help, analysts said.

Problems with integrating software are growing, as companies roll out additional computerized systems to manage and track every conceivable corner of their businesses, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst with the Hurwitz Group. "Every single packaged application has some requirement to match data and to do data integration [with existing systems]. The pressure is particularly intense [now] because companies are spending a tremendous amount of money to buy and build these systems, so they need to show the payback."

While on the surface new applications may sound simple--such as a banking application that presents customer balances for checking, savings, and loan accounts--in practice they can turn into an integration nightmare. Data may reside in a myriad of mainframes, proprietary minicomputers, and even spreadsheet files. Pulling everything together into a single application might involve weeks or months of hand coding, or millions of dollars worth of systems integration consulting.

In fact, Forrester Research estimates that companies spend 30 percent of their IT budgets building and maintaining connections between applications.

That's where Vitria and companies like Crossroads Software and Oberon hope to cash in.

Vitria and Crossroads tackle the same problem from different directions, said Greenbaum. "Vitria is at a much lower level, where the product is looking at the underlying technology to exchange messages and match transactions. Crossroads is looking at data and metadata at a higher level," he said. "Vitria provides the plumbing, not the finished bathroom. But a skilled plumber can do a lot with this."

Both companies tackle the same integration headache. "Companies can hardwire connections between systems. But the reason to go to Vitria or Crossroads is to have reusable software. It's like stereo equipment. You want a standard plug so you don't have to solder the wires together each and every time you put your stereo together," said Greenbaum.

Business Agiliti, expected to ship later this year, includes either a Windows NT or Unix-based application server. It also includes a series of Connectors for linking to: database servers from Oracle, Informix Software, IBM, and Microsoft; messaging software from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle; packaged applications from SAP and Oracle; and object request broker software from Visigenic.

Once connections are made between Business Agiliti and existing applications, developers use the software's graphical tools to design new applications. Vitria executives said no low-level coding is required, and systems can be changed without being shut down.

The Business Agiliti server is priced from $34,999. Connector pricing has not been announced.