You would think that Tibco Software, an early innovator and leader in enterprise application integration (EAI), would be heavily promoting the addition of open-standard web services interfaces to its traditional messaging architecture and library of EAI adapters.
But because web services interfaces have become mandatory for all integration products it has become tough to differentiate based on open protocols. So Tibco is focusing on enabling the dynamic enterprise by putting business process management (BPM) and analytics functionality higher in the stack.
In the early days of the real-time enterprise - the 1990s - Tibco pioneered messaging and integration technologies for demanding markets such as brokerage trading desks, where packets of information had to be there in a fraction of a second.
The supplier then prospered by packaging these tools and selling them as part of an integration server that could tie together any number of diverse applications and legacy systems.
Today, Tibco and other pure-play integration suppliers, including WebMethods, Vitria and SeeBeyond, are on a collision course with application suppliers, which have realised the value in providing integration middleware themselves.
Other suppliers, such as IBM and BEA Systems, pose a threat as they incorporate both integration and higher-level capabilities into the application server.
On one hand, many see Tibco as having stronger real-time messaging and portal capabilities than its pure-play EAI competitors. On the other hand, according to Roy Schulte, a vice -president and analyst at Gartner, the company has no inside track just because it opens up its software to third parties through web services and XML.
"That's actually the point of web services," explained Schulte. "You can't differentiate - it's like trying to differentiate with your support of TCP/IP."
Instead, the supplier is developing vertical, market-specific solutions that try to help enterprise IT leaders leverage the data already running through their pipes.
Tibco has developed BPM tools, such as BusinessWorks, that allow enterprise IT managers to define modular business logic components and then to quickly and flexibly reuse them in different business processes as the need arises (for example, if a product or partner changes or in a mergers and acquisitions situation).
The supplier also recently introduced a business optimisation dashboard product called BusinessFactor, which aims to deliver real-time performance management technology, for example, for greater supply-chain visibility.
Tibco's chief strategist Ram Menon described it as "closed-loop integration: Connect it together, see what's going on, understand it and react to it".
The big question is whether Tibco can maintain its application-neutral status as it adds more application-like functionality, such as performance management, to its middleware.