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New EAI tool is all about the data

In an enterprise landscape constantly shifting through mergers and acquisitions, it is sometimes difficult for vendors to remain focused. Venetica, though, is a company intent upon blazing a path in the enterprise-information sharing space.

The Charlotte, N.C., firm has released VeniceBridge 3.0 Beta, an enterprise application integration (EAI) product that allows structured data in legacy applications to be integrated with data in disparate database applications.

Venetica has been in the business of implementing content management solutions in large organizations since 1993. According to Marc Andrews, Venetica's director of product marketing, most of those customers were trying to use a hodgepodge of different systems.

"Large organizations were implementing systems at the department level, and through mergers and acquisitions, they ended up having stovepipe systems in place," said Andrews. "Various parts of an organization would have different systems in place to manage (similar) content."

VeniceBridge paves the way for developers who want make several systems to act as one. It features a single application program interface (API) that can search for and access content in multiple repositories, meaning an existing application does not have to be redesigned for a third-party system to access its content.

In simple terms, when VeniceBridge exports a document to another system, it extracts both its content and metadata. It then packages the document using XML, which can be interpreted automatically by applications receiving the data that are tied to the VeniceBridge API.

If a document is to be used by an application outside of VeniceBridge, such as a business partner's database, data transfer is still eased because the XML document can be read manually. It provides a roadmap for importing a document's data.

Andrews said the VeniceBridge system benefits companies with mission-critical data residing in different data repositories because it reduces the time and effort required to bring that data together.

He also said VeniceBridge saves time and money for firms in vertical industries such as banking and pharmaceuticals because the day-to-day cost of copying, packaging and shipping documents that could be handled electronically is often astronomical.

Andrew Warzecha, vice president of electronic business systems with Meta Group, said the single API is advantageous because of its ability to handle back-end integration without ongoing custom maintenance.

While some companies may conclude they do not need the advanced options VeniceBridge provides, Guy Creese, research director for Aberdeen Group, said such a decision should be based on current requirements, not on long-term needs.

"What often happens is IT may think they know what repositories they need to pull together, but tomorrow their company merges with another company and they've got another repository coming online," Creese said.

VeniceBridge 3.0 does not include its own inherent security measures, but it has been designed to utilize the security features of existing databases as well as the portal with which it is used. VeniceBridge also enables XML data to be encrypted when sent over the Internet.

Venetica does not provide a portal specifically designed to work in conjunction with its API, but it does have a strategic partnership with enterprise portal developer Viador Inc.

Warzecha said VeniceBridge works well as an OEM offering for portal makers looking to integrate several systems, and as a business-to-business platform for companies that exchange voluminous files such as business plans or CAD files.

In addition to the API, Andrews said VeniceBridge 3.0 includes content bridges or adaptors that configure VeniceBridge to work with commonly used databases such as Documentum, FileNET, Lotus Notes and Domino, Eastman and Oracle iFS.

A Content Bridge Builder toolkit is also available for developing adaptors for customized database applications. Another add-on is available to convert documents into browser-based formats, so remote workers or those using thin clients can view content.

One of Venetica's customers, Connecticut-based insurance group W.R. Berkley Corp., uses VeniceBridge to give its offices and field agents access to contracts, images and account histories, even though they may be in three different databases.

Stu Nixon, senior project manager of pharmaceutical developer Genentech Inc. is currently implementing VeniceBridge to coordinate data between an Oracle database, statistics analysis software and three other separate computer systems. Nixon said both small companies and enterprises such as his 3,000-employees firm could benefit from VeniceBridge.

"It's likely to save us many days if not weeks of time in putting together a submission to the FDA," Nixon said. "That may not seem like a lot, but in the drug application process, it can be really critical."

Pricing for VeniceBridge is based on the number of servers, components and repositories involved in an implementation. Andrews said a base implementation on two databases starts at about $75,000, with more involved implementations ranging up to $250,000.

Warzecha said a company interested in VeniceBridge should not only examine its projected ROI to justify the price tag, but also be sure it will have a long-term need to facilitate complex data exchanges.

VeniceBridge 3.0 is in beta now, and being implemented by about a dozen companies, according to Venetica executives. The product will be generally available by the end of March.


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