Above All Software last week unveiled the Above All Composite Application Platform 4.0, which is designed to simplify the process of mining services, data and business logic from different systems and then visually refining these elements into business services. New features in version 4 include Knowledge Packs for applications from SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc.; a composite application modeler; a composite server; and support for Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE).
The foundation of the platform is the notion of business services, which support a set of business tasks or processes. These business services become the "collaborative language between business and IT," said Sanjay Sarathy, vice president of marketing at Above All Software Inc., San Mateo, Calif.
In the world of service-oriented architecture (SOA), composite application platforms give business users the power over business processes that cut across various functional areas and applications, said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, Waltham, Mass. "The goal is to build composite services to compose into processes; it puts power over those processes into the business user's [realm]. What's different versus traditional application development is you build declaratively versus programmatically. You don't write code. Composite application platforms provide an infrastructure for the declarative creation and management of composite applications."
The notion of "application" is changing, Bloomberg said. "We're moving away from having to buy an application, where the only people who can create it are programmers, and we're moving to the idea of a business application, with a business user taking a variety of IT resources and applying them to a business problem, but not through coding."
With Above All's new composite application modeler, the user utilizes a graphical interface to create a relationship between Siebel and SAP, for example, and define how business services are to be assembled, and then deploy the assembled services to a user interface of choice, Sarathy said. "It's all done through a visual set of metaphors in the Above All Studio environment," he said.
The composite server, a new deployment feature in version 4, takes the assembled business services and transforms them so they can be exposed as Web services, Sarathy said. "So you can consume that Web service in your favorite tool, and build your user interface and any other business logic around it."
For PGP Corp., a provider of enterprise data security and encryption products in Palo Alto, Calif., the Above All platform is helping the company create one unique view of customers across its Salesforce.com system and a third-party Web service from Dun & Bradstreet, and eventually its order management systems.
PGP decided to use the Dun & Bradstreet number as the basis for defining a common customer key. "The problem we were trying to solve was how to uniquely identify customers from various sources of information," said David Mosher, director of analytics at PGP. "We needed tools to talk to various sources of information, most of which we don't control. D&B and Salesforce.com are interfaces we can't change."
The first phase of the project is addressing new customers. So a salesperson goes into the Salesforce.com application and is able to self-select information from the D&B service and populate the Salesforce.com customer records with not only the D&B customer number, but other information such as size of the company and other statistics.
Behind the scenes, Salesforce.com calls a Web service run by PGP and powered by Above All, which then calls the D&B Web service. "Above All provides the user interface for doing that," Mosher said. "In the salesperson's view of the world, they never see the D&B screens."
PGP is also using Above All to pull "metrics from the operational systems, Salesforce.com and order management. It gives us one place to collect all that information, and generate a composite application from all the data from different data sources."
David Burnett, director of corporate applications and information technology at PGP, said the initial implementation of Above All is primarily about getting better visibility to key aspects of the business. However, he said, "We're moving more to a service-oriented architecture. Above All is going to be a key part of our technical foundation as we move more of our internal processes to Web services."
The Above All Composite Application Platform 4.0 is available now on the Microsoft .NET platform; pricing starts at $7,500 for development licenses. It will be available for the J2EE platform in Q4 of 2005, initially on IBM WebSphere, according to Sarathy.