Infrastructure specialist SilverStream Software has become the latest vendor to target the recruitment of independent software vendors as a central pillar in the development of its Web services strategy.
ISV revenues currently make up about a fifth of SilverStream's total, according to the company's CTO, Steve Benfield, but the aim is to drive a greater proportion of sales through developers as they make the company's eXtend platform the basis for their own Web application development efforts. The company has appointed Wayne Parslow from the sales group to spearhead these efforts as the new VP of business development.
In tune with other middleware vendors -- most notably IBM and BEA -- SilverStream has identified that ISV support will be crucial as Web services begin to translate from hype to reality, and the race is on to provide J2EE-friendly ISVs with software crammed with extra functionality to help them get their own products ready for Web deployment. Middleware vendors have the additional challenge of making sure their products are equally accessible to business analysts as well as high-end software developers. J2EE is notoriously hard to implement, and better rewards await those vendors who can lessen this complexity burden.
SilverStream says its recently available offering -- the eXtend platform, which comprises the Composer XML transformation engine and the Director development and deployment platform for J2EE-based applications -- scores highly on both counts. It says a recent report from analyst group Gartner put its integrated services environment behind only Microsoft and IBM in terms of vision and ability to execute, and in front of all the EAI vendors and BEA, which it says didn't even make it into Gartner's famed magic quadrant.
As what we're told is a taster for the goodies to come, SilverStream this week announced a free developer edition of eXtend JEDDI (Java enterprise discovery, description and integration), an implementation of the UDDI (universal discovery, description and integration) standard. Benfield says the move should inject some fresh backing for UDDI registries, which developers have so far been reluctant to experiment with.
"Today, UDDI says 'hack me,'" says Benfield, because the options available to developers are largely confined to public registries.
Through eXtend JEDDI, Benfield says that developers have a low-risk option for testing UDDI registries on their own terms. JEDDI, currently in beta, is an open implementation of the UDDI v1.0 specification for private deployments, and includes administration tools, some core data and optional test data to fast-track developers interested in UDDI. SilverStream will early next year release a version of JEDDI for version 2.0 of UDDI, which will include support for higher level services such as registry replication.
SilverStream plans other nuggets to tempt developers. Options it is mulling include a low-priced version of its application server -- which will exclude capabilities such as clustering -- targeted at developers and smaller users. It will also port its eXtend integration services suite to the Apache Tomcat application server -- to seed the developer community -- in addition to the BEA and IBM application servers it already supports.
CompetitionSilverStream says support for multiple application servers will provide it with access to a broader range of ISVs than vendors that are more restricted in this sense. BEA, for example, recently outlined ISVs as a key target group for 2002, which it will pursue via its forthcoming Cajun development environment. Developers who take advantage of functions such as BEA's personalization engine will find themselves tied to the BEA WebLogic application server, Benfield argues.
"If you're building software, then you need it to run on the universe; not just one platform," he says.
Indeed, Benfield says the forthcoming version of SilverStream's application server, due out in the first quarter of 2002, will take even greater advantage of emerging standards. This will include support for J2EE v1.3 and the Java Connector Architecture, allowing developers to integrate applications to any JCA-compatible data source, as well as support for WSFL (Web services flow language), the IBM-developed standard for business process integration. Specific adapters for connecting to SAP and PeopleSoft applications are also on the way. The company has plenty of ease-of-development pieces on the way, too -- including the addition of a UML modeling tool, micropayment technology and support for brokering trading partner agreements and ebXML -- although it says a surge in interest for business-to-business integration is a prerequisite for this to happen.
With a fresh emphasis on the ISV community, SilverStream hopes 2002 will drive a new revenue stream that will complement its current focus on large enterprises. On the technology front, SilverStream appears to be well tuned-in to the expectations of what Web services can deliver, and its neutral stance on the application server front will be welcomed by developers not already on board. However, SilverStream is still a long way from turning its front-runner status in terms of thought leadership into market leadership. Its strategy of pricing itself well below the IBMs and BEAs of the world probably remains its greatest chance of snuggling up to ISVs en masse.
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