Actional CEO John Orcutt pushes real-time application integration
Actional is trying to take the concept of e-business application integration to the next level with a software package that allows applications to communicate in real time.
During an interview with InfoWorld Editor in Chief Michael Vizard, Actional CEO John Orcutt talked about why application integration has become a huge priority for IT and how it can be done in real time without having to introduce middleware architectures to link applications.
InfoWorld: How do you describe your company's mission?
John Orcutt: What we're really trying to do is to enable real-time collaborative e-business. It's basically enabling an enterprise to interact with its customers, partners, and vendors at any touch point, at any time, in real time. When we look at what enterprise customers want, they want to be able to check on inventory when they're thinking about placing an order, and they don't want to wait 8 seconds to 14 seconds to get an answer. That information is residing in an SAP or a legacy system somewhere at the back end of the enterprise, but getting to that information is not an easy matter.
InfoWorld: So how do you do that?
Orcutt: What we've done is we've invented a technology -- it's actually been shipping now for four years -- that creates real-time front-to-back integration. We do it via a Direct Connect methodology rather than using any kind or adding any kind of new middleware. What we do is, we actually recognize that applications have middleware built in to them already. What we've created is the means to actually connect from the middleware in one application to the middleware in another, without bringing in a new layer of middleware and all the tools and all of the rewritten business processes that are required to do the translation. What we've created is a framework that can translate on the fly across literally dozens of architectures and standards with the link from one middleware inside of an application to another application's middleware.
InfoWorld: So where do you take that capability from here?
Orcutt: One of the really interesting things about the technology that we created is it's not just providing the integration from one application to another. We've actually created the ability to take business services -- let's say, inventory from a back-end application -- and enable it to essentially be installed into the front-end application so that it runs in process with that front-end application. What that creates is the ability for any application to be designated as the integration hub. That's why we call ourselves a control broker. What we're doing is enabling one application to control the business services of multiple other applications.
InfoWorld: Won't things like XML solve much of this problem?
Orcutt: I think XML is great, but it's one of dozens of things that are essentially just standards to support the movement of information. XML doesn't really relate to the business services and processes that have to be created and aggregated.
InfoWorld: What's the impact of the current economic climate on these types of projects?
Orcutt: What we tend to hear is the need for front-to-back integration is the very top of the priorities list in IT groups. The other thing that we're hearing, which is kind of interesting given the economic uncertainty that's going on right now, is that integration is going to be something that you might call recession-resistant. It's probably not recession-proof, but corporations are basically looking at what may be a head-on collision happening here. On the one hand, their IT budgets are going to be squeezed, so efficiency is extremely important; preserving investments that have already been made is extremely important. And on the other hand, they know that the way to succeed is to be able to automate more of their services at the front end of the enterprise. So they are looking at a need to move applications forward, but at the same time they're going to be under very tight budget squeezes. One of the reasons that we believe we're doing well now and will continue to do well is that they can preserve all of that back-end investment.
InfoWorld: So at the end of the day, what's going to motivate customers to follow your approach?
Orcutt: What we find in our marketplace is that the things that are driving Global 2000 companies is that they've made a huge investment in their legacy applications and software infrastructure over the years. None of these large Global 2000 companies wants to throw away the investment that they've made in the back end. Nor do they really want to spend anymore money than they have to modify those applications. What we've created in our methodology is a way for them to actually carry forward and extend all of the existing applications that they have at the back end by making them services. Middleware can't solve that problem without very time-consuming and very expensive glue-coating and custom-coating. Our implementation times are typically more in the six-week range, not in the six-month range.