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All Aboard for Commerce One's Conductor

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Posted March 24, 2003 By Clint Boulton     Feedback

The business software maker has already sold its composite application platform to 11 firms.

Commerce One is turning over a new leaf.

Quiet for awhile, the Pleasanton, Calif. concern Monday embarked on its new Web services strategy with the release of a software integration platform it hopes to sell to enterprises looking to put some zip in their management of business processes.

The former electronic marketplace software concern, feeling the burden of decreased spending in the software sector after many of its actual and potential dot-com customers went out of business, made Commerce One Conductor available to the public.

Like most e-commerce software of its ilk, Conductor helps companies speed the flow of such business processes as supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). This makes it possible for customer and partner interaction to proceed without a hitch, unencumbered by the limits of existing applications or platforms.

Conductor's architecture is in keeping with the red-hot software system trend of making multiple applications viewable through a single graphical user interface (GUI). This pares the time and cost of writing and using composite applications, as compared to using a combination of technologies like BPM, EAI, portals, identity management and various design tools. Business analysts can compose whole business processes and add new application features and functions that complement customers' systems through the GUI. This service-oriented architecture is the direction many firms are heading to stay competitive.

ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg, who spoke with Commerce One recently, said he got the idea Commerce One is betting the company on Conductor.

"The company has been through too many ups and downs and has been in the red for too long," Bloomberg told "That being said, Conductor looks like a strong, comprehensive offering in the Service Orientation space. Commmerce One's strengths in the CPG, retail, automotive, and discrete manufacturing verticals gives them a great niche to build out their offering, as many other vendors are focusing on financial services, government, and healthcare."

Customers have already tested and endorsed Conductor. Commerce One has sold the software platform to such diverse industrial firms as BOC Gases, Eastman Chemical, Open GIS Consortium, Enporion, Industrial Technology Research Institute (Taiwan), MSX, Siemens and UCCNet. These businesses essentially served as guinea pigs for Commerce One's new product strategy.

Industrial gas supplier BOC Gases uses Conductor to speed its ordering processes by exposing internal product codes and specifications directly to its customers. Customers can gather specific details of available gas directly on BOC Gases' internal systems before choosing to configure a custom mix.

ZapThink Senior Analyst Ronald Schmelzer said Commerce One is entering new ground, one fraught with heavy competition.

"Rather than competing with the likes of Ariba, they are now competing with a wide range of vendors in the Web Services-based integration and process markets. This includes integration companies like IONA, Actional, as well as offerings from Microsoft, BEA, and IBM," Schmelzer told "They are also heading straight into the highly competitive BPM and Workflow markets that are rapidly becoming service-enabled. This includes companies like Intalio, Oak Gove Systems, Handysoft, and Savvion. The world is definitely getting more competitive for them, so it's not a given that they will be able to leverage their brand and capabilities learned from their marketplace and e-Procurement days to the emerging, and thus quite chaotic, marketplace for services-based B2B integration."

Commerce One Conductor is made up of a number of components, but the platform's brain is its Registry, which defines user and system interfaces as services. The Registry maintains full definitions of user roles and access, systems, business processes, data schemas, transformation maps, choreographies, rules and security requirements -- all of which may be modified as required by the enterprise customer.

Conductor also features the Interoperability Engine, which provides interoperability across applications participating in the business process. It works with the Registry to determine such details as document formats, locations and security requirements, and performs transformation and versioning, message and document security, signatures, routing and transport needed for secure, reliable interoperation.

The platform includes smaller components such as Process Manager, a run-time engine where the business process is executed from the services accessed by the Interoperability Engine; a Graphical Process Builder, which allows a business analyst to construct business processes from the resources listed and defined in the Registry; a Design Suite, which offers tools required to create business processes and composite applications; and Systems Management, which tracks messages, monitors components and manages topology installation, configuration, and data loading.

Commerce One will eventually release Process Accelerators that will provide business processes that can be implemented easily within the Conductor platform. These software components will address common business processes, such as supply and demand planning and management and invoice handling.

The base price for Conductor is $300,000.

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