Tibco upgrades products, sees 'predictive' enterprise

Tibco Software Inc. announced upgrades to some of its core messaging and integration products Friday, along with a longer term plan to develop software that it said will help enterprises react more quickly to unplanned events affecting their businesses.

The company makes integration software that links different types of computer systems and applications together with the goal of streamlining business processes and reducing costs. Its rivals in the EAI (enterprise applications integration) market include webMethods Inc. and SeeBeyond Technology Corp.

At its user conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Tibco announced an upgrade to BusinessWorks, its core product for integrating applications and coordinating events. The main enhancement to version 5.0 is the addition of visual modelling capabilities that allow a business manager -- as opposed to an IT person -- to map out the flow of an applications infrastructure that can then be implemented by IT staff.

"We've built in a business user interface so that, using the same Gant charts and Visio diagrams they're familiar with, a business person can lay out a process in terms of what order things have to happen in, what types of resources they're using, which applications are involved," said Larry Neumann, Tibco's director of market strategies.

Version 5.0 also adds performance and ease of use enhancements, he said. It's due in the fourth quarter starting at US$240,000.

Tibco also upgraded BusinessFactor, a "digital dashboard" acquired last year from Praja Inc. that helps companies identify patterns and anomalies in their business processes by observing transactions and other events. Version 4.2 completes the product's integration with BusinessWorks, according to Neumann, allowing them to share information more smoothly. It is available now starting at $150,000. Also new is an upgrade to Messaging for JMS that adds native connectivity for applications written in Microsoft Corp.'s .Net platform, Tibco said.

Tibco also said Friday it is also preparing a new family of products for release later this year that will build a bridge between the event information generated by its own products and system management platforms from the likes of Hewlett-Packard Co., Computer Associates International Inc. and Mercury Interactive.

Products from those vendors can benefit from precise information about the impact of a system failure or network blockage on an application or a business process, Neumann said.

"They need to understand what a failure means ... they can't prioritize resources without knowing that. Also, we think you can improve your applications if you have visibility into the health of the systems," he said.

The first product in Tibco's Enterprise Management Insight Family, as it will be called, is a gateway server due in the fourth quarter.

The first version will work with HP OpenView, with support for CA and Mercury's management platforms expected early next year.

"It means that you won't have to go to five different tools to isolate where a problem is. WebMethods has been making moves in this direction too. Tibco brings bidirectionality," Willet said, meaning information can be shared both to and from the management tools.

Further out, Tibco is working on what it calls "event enterprise management" software to help companies be more predictive. The products will correlate and analyze information gathered by Tibco's messaging and integration products to help companies spot patterns, anomalies and trends that might signal threats or opportunities.

For example, Neumann said, a casino that offers loyalty cards to its best customers could use the software to observe their behavior. If a gambler cashed in $10,000 worth of chips one evening, the casino could leave a coupon on the person's pillow enticing them to gamble again the next day, in order to win back some of the casino's money.

In another example, a package delivery company might use the software to identify a change in the volume of business from one of its large customers, and be able to deduce from that that the customer is doing business with a competitor to test their services. The company could then take proactive steps to retain its customer, Neumann said.

The products will differ from typical business intelligence software because they will use real-time data from Tibco's integration software, allowing businesses to identify and react to trends instantly, he said. The company isn't ready to talk about specific products, but said the first offerings are scheduled for mid-2004.

Like its rival integration vendors, Tibco is under pressure to add value to its product as the technologies it provides -- the "plumbing that ties applications together" -- start to appear in less specialized middleware products, said Shawn Willet, principal analyst with Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Virginia.

"The whole integration sector has been under pressure. The more basic integration technologies, be they message brokers or whatever, are becoming more commoditized. The 'plumbing' is becoming less expensive and people are including some of the functionality in application servers and other products," he said.

"The challenge for Tibco is to keep moving up the value chain and keep offering things that are more than plumbing," he said.

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