Active Software has introduced a package of middleware and development tools for linking Web browsers to corporate databases and applications.
ActiveWeb is part of a new breed of Internet-oriented products that combine transaction-based middleware and snap-together development environments. These products are starting to emerge from the labs of neophyte vendors such as Active, a start-up firm in Mountain View, California.
The ActiveWeb technology includes software adapters that can automatically map and translate data passing from back-end servers to browsers and then back again.
That minimises the amount of programming needed to connect Internet or intranet users to a jumble of corporate systems, says Julius Salud, senior director of business operations at Autodesk in San Rafael, California.
"We're essentially using it as an information broker to hook the Web into our systems without having to spend a lot of money to create the interfaces," Salud says.
Autodesk, a maker of design automation software, is developing an ActiveWeb-based application that will let its dealers place orders, validate serial numbers and track account balances via the Internet.
ActiveWeb follows on the heels of OpenScape, a similar product announced earlier this year by OneWave (formerly Business@Web) in Watertown, Massachusetts.
But ActiveWeb embraces the Internet even more tightly than OpenScape, says Evan Quinn, an analyst at International Data in Framingham, Massachusetts.
For example, ActiveWeb's user interface builder and built-in administration tools are written in Sun's Java language and can be run from a browser, freeing information systems employees to work away from their desktops. By comparison, OpenScape uses a more conventional Microsoft Visual Basic-compatible approach to development, Quinn says.
ActiveWeb and OpenScape provide asynchronous queue-based communications among systems, similar to general-purpose messaging middleware.
But the products offer a higher level of integration with development tools and use "publish and subscribe" technology, which can trigger a series of processing steps in response to specified events.
That was one of the key capabilities that sold Pacific Telesis Enterprises on ActiveWeb, says Joe Hocker, internal Web manager at the Pacific Telesis Group unit in San Ramon, California.
Hocker is developing an ActiveWeb online call center application that will be able to forward alerts on network outages and other problems directly into the browsers of Pacific Bell customer service representatives.