Is This Kool-Aid for Real?
To jaded IT types, the Rearden story sounds too good to be true. Toby Redshaw's first take was typical. As vice president of IT strategy at Motorola and an SOA evangelist, he thought, "If this existed I'd know about it, but on the off chance it does exist, there's no way they got the architecture right." So he sent a trusted colleague, whom he calls the "Mikey" of his group, to investigate. Mikey liked it. Today, Redshaw is both a customer and booster.
"They've built an architecture which is maybe the purest SOA Web services platform I've ever seen," Redshaw says, extolling the platform's inherent extensibility. "Think of any service that I can procure today through [EBS] … and just change the noun. There are conference services, consulting services, real estate, fix-and-repair services, warranty services -- all of that stuff. We spend several billion dollars a year on services."
Deb Stanton, general manager of global procurement at Whirlpool, had reservations about going with an unknown company. "You have to think about it hard," she says. But she wanted to bring off-PO spending under control and felt the business case was very strong. The clincher was what she calls Grady's "passion and vision." Stanton is rolling out EBS across her organization.
The most important deal, however, is the one Rearden has with HP, which will resell EBS worldwide. The deal goes a step further to support HP's BPO (business process outsourcing) initiative, where HP shoulders nonstrategic business processes for its customers. "HP plans to extend the Rearden Commerce platform to create some uniquely focused BPO-based solutions," says Bob Schultz, HP's vice president of BPO.
To better understand what Rearden has wrought, consider that the original Web services concept descended from two very different schools of thought. To some, Web services were primarily an Internet extension of the component development model; to others, they enhanced XML's promise to link businesses dynamically, allowing them to swap XML messages over the Internet instead of using dedicated EDI links.
Rearden's platform and its EBS application blend both lines of thinking. On the one hand, EBS' application framework is entirely component-based, so nontechnical customers can drag and drop services together to create end-user Web apps. On the other hand, Web services provide the basis of Rearden's services grid, which is essentially the supply side of a b-to-b marketplace.
To top it off, Rearden takes a page from another early Web services scheme: Microsoft's ill-fated HailStorm initiative. That was the code name for Microsoft's extension of Passport, intended to hold profiles, preferences, credit card numbers, and more. HailStorm may have met a grisly fate, but the generic notion of a secure identity whose home is the Internet -- one independent of device, that would be a hub for opening a widely distributed array of Web services unique to the user's identity and to the transaction -- that was a neat idea.
Rearden has rolled the .Net-dependent HailStorm idea to a Java platform and has adapted it for business users, whose roles and identities are uploaded from customer LDAP directories, along with any policy information. When all that has been uploaded to the system, an individual's identity determines the scope of business functions he or she is authorized to carry out.