OpenSpan: Beyond the enterprise mashup

Company's unprecedented technology helps enterprises breathe new life into legacy apps by integrating them with newer software

The dream of every CIO, says Francis Carden, CEO of OpenSpan is to instantly turn all of their legacy applications into reusable components.

"Who wouldn’t want to flip a switch and have all of their legacy apps and code extend into Web services and just plain services," Carden asks with a smile.

OpenSpan of Alpharetta, Georgia, has a goal of doing just that.

"We are not there yet, but "we are helping to get there," he says.

Openspan's technology provides integration in a unique way, coming at an application through the presentation layer.

OpenSpan "injects" itself in a running application on the desktop to expose the objects and give IT an "instant API" to create an integration solution and automation across the desktop environment, Carden explains.

The technology becomes a platform to integrate applications, automate business processes, extend functionality, and build new composite. 

For example, if a company deploys a new ERP system, it could expose the APIs and integrate that single application with a half dozen currently running applications.

OpenSpan isn't exactly a "mashup," but neither is it an old-school enterprise application integration.

"What we do has never been done before," Carden said.

How so? Rather than the now-common Google maps and Salesforce.com automation mashup, OpenSpan allows companies to integrate a Google search engine with an Excel spreadsheet so that someone in the marketing department can place the results of a search into rows and columns within Excel.

Although OpenSpan is a startup, it already boasts marquee customers like JC Penney.

Like any company, though, OpenSpan has seen some ups and downs since its inception as a professional services company.

After launching the firm, Carden realized that he was holding onto a unique piece of technology in the "instant API" and set about converting OpenSpan into a software company by quickly raising a first round of venture funding.

OpenSpan's fortunes improved even more with a second round of funding, backed by VC firms Sigma Partners and Matrix Partners.

"Once we got Sigma and Matrix, we had credibility," Carden said.

Credibility attracted not only VCs -- OpenSpan got its next round of funding in under 120 days -- but also quality management teams from across the industry, says Carden.

Still, the future is anything but certain. Like all companies, OpenSpan has to work hard to get customers, especially larger firms.

"Everyone wants to beat you up [with price concessions], and it is difficult getting those first six accounts," Carden said.

All of the big enterprises beat a hard bargain, wanting major price concessions.

But Carden is hopeful that OpenSpan has passed that plateau and has its sites set on fulfilling those CIO dreams, he said.

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