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Sonic debuts new integration tools

Sonic Software launches a new set of products in an effort to capture a bigger portion of the integration software market.

Sonic Software has launched a new set of products in an effort to capture a bigger portion of the integration software market.

The Bedford, Mass.-based company on Monday introduced its Business Integration suite, a set of server-based products for sharing data in corporations. With its integration software, Sonic is looking to offer a lower-cost alternative to traditional middleware products and Java-based application servers.

Sonic's software, similar to network cabling in an office building, creates an infrastructure for transporting data and transactions. The server software sends information via messages that can be read by corporate applications. A business could, for example, streamline its purchasing process with an inventory application that sends an Extensible Markup Language (XML) document fed directly into manufacturing software.

Sonic, which is owned by Progress Software, competes with companies, such as IBM and Tibco, that sell so-called messaging middleware, according to Sonic executives.

The underlying component of the Sonic Business Integration suite is a software server called an enterprise service bus (ESB). ESBs are stripped-down versions of messaging middleware that use newer technologies such as XML and Web services to share data between applications.

Gordon Van Huizen, a Sonic vice president, believes the use of ESBs will grow because companies are increasingly recognizing the need to integrate applications to improve their business processes. Research firm Gartner predicts that a majority of large companies will have an ESB running by 2005.

"Over time, applications are being built more to integrate through a service interface," Van Huizen said. "The challenge is how to interconnect them through interoperating networks--that's the role of the ESB."

By using an ESB, rather than traditional middleware, companies can integrate applications more cost-effectively, he said. Sonic ESB, which will ship at the end of April, costs $10,000 per server processor. Typical corporate application integration middleware installations can cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

The new version of Sonic ESB adds features that aim to help administrators better monitor the flow of messages across the company network.

Other applications in the Sonic Business Integration suite include Sonic XML Server for storing XML documents and Sonic Orchestration Server for modeling and running complex business processes. The suite also offers a development tool for Sonic software and prewritten "adapters" for pulling data out of packaged applications.