Startups aim to move apps integration to network layer

By Michael Vizard, InfoWorld |  Networking

Two startup companies that hope to create application integration frameworks at the network level made their case at the PC Forum conference held here this week.

KnowNow, based in Menlo Park, Calif., and OpenDesign, in Bellevue, Wash., both plan to roll out ambitious efforts intended to move responsibility for integrating applications away from the application layer in favor of network layers.

According to executives at both companies, this software-router approach makes more sense because it allows them to ascertain what type of data is coming into the enterprise at the edge of the network, and then provide the appropriate response.

OpenDesign's acting CEO Edward Jung, who prior to founding OpenDesign was one of the lead developers of Microsoft.NET, said that his company's platform will be capable of abstracting the logic in any given application in the enterprise. The OpenDesign platform can then represent that application to another application at the edge of the network. In contrast, most EAI (enterprise application integration) tools today rely on logic running on the same server as the application they need to integrate.

At present, Jung, who counts former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold among his backers, said the company expects to roll out its first pilot projects later this year.

Meanwhile, KnowNow is taking a slightly different approach in that its software sits at the edge of the network and examines network traffic. Based on that analysis, its platform, currently in beta, can then prioritize that traffic toward the specific server where a given application resides.

Both companies are examples of an emerging school of thought that sees the network layer as the most efficient place to integrate applications.

"There are some logical components that can be moved into the network," said Jon Derome, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston.

Derome continued that such functionality includes data translation and transformation, security, and guaranteed messaging.

"Moving integration to the network won't resolve the whole EAI model," he said.

Derome added that the integration market is changing, and companies such as Vitria, Tibco, and WebMethods are becoming more about business process management and less about data transportation. Meanwhile, companies such as Cisco, Sun Microsystems, and Microsoft also are working toward including a certain degree of integration intelligence in middleware

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