December 17, 2002 8:33 AM PST

Start-up delivers Web services update

Start-up Cape Clear Software on Tuesday delivered an upgrade to its Web services software designed to improve integration with business applications and information security systems.

Cape Clear 4 includes server software that automates data sharing between disparate applications, and a programming tool that helps businesses create Web-based portals, or applications that present information from several applications in a single window. A company could use Cape Clear's software to pass customer information from a sales application created by internal developers to an accounting package from a third-party provider, for example.

The company, based in San Mateo, Calif., has constructed its application-integration product around Web services in an effort to exploit the connectivity these software standards offer. That positions the company's product set as an alternative to traditional middleware products, which acts as software "brokers," or connection hubs among different applications. Large-scale application integration projects can be expensive, with installations often in the $1 million range.

"The whole value these days is to do more for less. We find people with integration problems, and we tell them we can solve essentially the same problem for a fraction of the price," said Annrai O'Toole, CEO at Cape Clear. "Not surprisingly, that (message) plays extremely well because we help companies take cost out of what they're doing."

Founded in 1999 by employees from Iona Technologies, the venture-backed company boasts about 125 customers, 25 that are using Cape Clear's software in production systems. The product costs $1,500 per developer, while typical installations cost about $50,000 to $100,000, O'Toole said.

With Cape Clear 4, the company says it has introduced better links to IBM's MQSeries, a data-sharing application well established in large corporations, and to messaging middleware based on the Java standard called JMS (Java Messaging Service). The upgrade also provides a mechanism for Cape Clear's software to exploit existing corporate security systems for authenticating a person's identity and establishing access privileges.

Responding to customer feedback, Cape Clear added a console to help administrators manage multiple installations of the server software on a network.

One analyst familiar with Cape Clear said that the company occupies a niche for Web services integration, but that it faces an uphill battle in displacing entrenched providers of integration middleware. John Meyer, a senior industry analyst for application development at IT research commpany Giga Group, noted that industry heavyweights IBM and BEA Systems have already added integration brokers to their Java server software and that established middleware companies such as Tibco Software have adopted Web services technology as well.

Cape Clear's "cost could be an interesting attraction, but for many large shops their (existing) products are there; they're robust and entrenched," Meyer said. "So it'll be hard for someone with even a better price point to replace them. It's hard to rip them out."

 

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