Privately held enterprise portal company DataChannel is seeing a new role for itself as a front end to enterprise application integration tools. This month, the company is set to announce integration technology that enables Web-top access to applications via EAI tools from Seebeyond and Vitria. DataChannel's DCS extension kit for EAI is shipping immediately.
Many portal vendors are realizing that simple packaged portals, which provide only a basic presentation layer for a user's desktop, don't offer enough added value for customers. Larger software houses have been shifting them toward more sophisticated application integration for some time. Oracle now includes portal services within Oracle 9i, and earlier this year, SAP spent $400 million in cash for enterprise information portal specialist TopTier. Meanwhile, down in the small workgroup market space, Citrix is acquiring portal vendor Sequoia for $185 million, and will integrate it with its client/server application access tools.
However, this trend puts the smaller, independent portal vendors, such as DataChannel, Plumtree, Verity, Viador and Epicentric, under threat. DataChannel says it's escaping that trap with its new strategy. It dismisses the SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle approaches as "homogeneous and proprietary," and calls Citrix "single platform and departmental." Through EAI, DataChannel can offer direct links to SAP, Siebel and CICS applications, among others, across multiple platforms.
According to Lucie Fjeldstad, president and CEO of DataChannel, "all the data associated with a single customer might reside in multiple systems." EAI software alone addresses only part of that problem. A portal can provide the tools needed to build aggregated views of information. DataChannel is building up a framework based on XML that it says can integrate with new EAI technologies as they arise. Currently, DataChannel Server version 4.1.2 supports SeeBeyond's e*Way Intelligent Adapter and Vitria BusinessWare Connector. Integration is achieved through a shared object repository.
DataChannel's portal software also includes its own basic content management tools, but it offers integration with Interwoven for those who need something more sophisticated (via its own XpertLinX integration technology). It also has an integration deal with media content management firm Convera. And there are plans for a version packaged with the iPlanet Appserver from Sun Microsystems. Although multiple platforms are supported, about 80% of DataChannel customers use Sun's Solaris operating system.
Further out, DataChannel is looking at Web services integration, and plans to offer a link to the Microsoft-led UDDI directory services repository in the future.
DataChannel started life in 1996, and its first product was an XML parser. It acquired Isogen, a systems integration and consulting firm, in 1999. It says it's on target to reach profitability next year, and has enough funding to get it to that stage.
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