Even an octopus needs to go tentacle shopping when trying to tackle service-oriented architecture.
Tibco Software Inc. will partner with Defywire Inc. to incorporate mobile devices, such as laptops and handhelds, into its business process management framework, extending the reach of the Staffware suite it acquired last year.
Jeff Kristick, BPM product manager for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tibco, acknowledged the need to partner with smaller specialist vendors to bring in every element of IT architecture under the BPM umbrella.
"Hopefully, it will accelerate the adoption rate for BPM in certain industries," Kristick said.
Herndon, Va.-based Defywire offers a toolset that connects mobile devices to back-office systems. Of particular note is a Java-based application development platform that allows one-stop development for all mobile platforms.
Defywire CEO Jill Stelfox envisions the working relationship with Tibco as an opportunity to eliminate the time delay created in the push and pull of the mobile workforce.
"It's often hard to correct a mistake in the business process because by the time you know it's occurred the mobile worker has already moved on to something else," Stelfox said.
Tibco is hardly the only established vendor looking to extend its functionality through partnerships these days. BEA Systems Inc. recently unveiled its new AquaLogic Web services platform that will rely heavily on registry vendor Systinet Corp.
Dan Gohl, principal of McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., recently used the Defywire product to push student information out to the PocketPC handhelds of the teaching and administrative staff.
"What it is really doing is giving us a collective memory," Gohl said. "We're able to get information anywhere our students are. Now we're looking into instructional uses for it and see how we can use it to communicate with parents and students."
Of course, part of the test Tibco faces as an established enterprise application integration (EAI) vendor is convincing customers it can take mobile information and combine it with landlocked information in its BPM suite without it requiring multiple one-to-one connections.
"That's the challenge, to make it look SOA instead of EAI," said Forrester analyst Randy Heffner, noting that EAI vendors often face skepticism that they can truly create proxy-like architectures rather than rely upon their legacy message buses.
Often those message buses can overwhelm a business process flow, Heffner added, making the interaction about the point-to-point communication rather than the multi-faceted process.
"Sometimes it's a case of 'I believe I'm just talking to a service' when in the background 'I'm really talking to the message broker,'" he said. "That raises the question of whether you've really got a service-oriented architecture or something that's trying to look like it."
Kristick said Tibco's BPM product stack still only includes limited support for Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), an XML-based standard for a distributed computing environment using a combination of Web services.
While BPEL support hardly qualifies as the key measurement for whether a product or suite can deliver SOA performance, Heffner pointed out that all vendors face tough questions concerning their ability to achieve some of the lofty goals imagined in the SOA framework.
"It's important to remember SOA is a concept and not a product," Heffner cautioned, adding that each customer presents a unique case for the vendors trying to woo them.