Iona offers total business integration

A new application integration strategy from Irish software company Iona could facilitate links between business-to-business...

A new application integration strategy from Irish software company Iona could facilitate links between business-to-business e-commerce applications, writes Danny Bradbury.

The Total Business Integration (TBI) strategy extends Iona's existing middleware business beyond the firewall, making it possible to feed data to diverse client devices over the Internet. Applications are addressed at both a data and a process level so they can feed data to each other across the Internet while integrating with one another's components. To this end, Web services will play a huge part in the future development of the integration strategy.

There are various supporting struts to the TBI platform. The Web services side is handled by Iona's new iPortal XMLBus, which enables companies to expose components as Web services so they can be accessed by other applications. For this purpose, it supports the Simple Object Access Protocol and the Web Service Definition Language.

The recent acquisition of Netfish Technologies by Iona also brings into the Iona fold the XDI B2B integration product, used for creating relationships between applications from different companies.

The underlying software development process supporting the TBI initiative is called Suretrack, a product announced at the same time as TBI. The Suretrack development methodology is heavily based on the Unified Process, which uses the Unified Modelling Language as a notation language for mapping out software design.

This bag of goodies is impressive for a company that was restricted to core Corba development tools when it was launched 10 years ago. Having carved out a niche in the object request broker market, Iona started to branch out, taking advantage of the move towards Web-based applications by creating a portal strategy.

Iona's iPortal range is designed to help companies build internal applications that could be accessed via a Web-based interface. TBI is the next logical step, as the software development market concentrates increasingly on cross-firewall integration.

A significant move for Iona has been a refocusing from Corba to the Java 2 platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and XML markets. The company has kept its links with Corba - a complex, difficult to implement architecture that has retained a stronghold in the high-end, mission-critical, object-oriented development markets - but has picked up on Java and XML because of their widespread use in middle-tier e-commerce applications.

"The world of the future won't be totally Java. It will at least have a Microsoft piece to it. Anyone that builds a product strategy predicated purely on J2EE is missing something," said Iona CEO Barry Morris. "When you peel that back there is a requirement to support mainframes and a bunch of other things that we are historically good at."

Such an attitude is not surprising, given the company's positive relationship with Microsoft. Iona was instrumental in integrating Corba with Microsoft's Common Object Model in the 1990s.

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