CATEGORY: Data Integration

REVIEWER: Kevin Rathie, vice president of business development for ForestExpress.

BACKGROUND: ForestExpress is an industry supported e-business solutions company providing business-to-business (B2B) connectivity (integration) and catalog content services for the paper and forest products industries. The company also provides transaction services for the buying and selling of timber, the industry's most important raw material, via the ForestExpress timber marketplace. The central component of our business is the ForestExpress network hub or Data Exchange Platform (DXP). We provide the industry with the ability to replace multiple trading partner communication methods with a single secure connection to our hub. Trading partners may then leverage that connection to as few or as many established trading partners as they choose. ForestExpress was established as a neutral, independent company in 2000, with the support of leading forest products companies.

PLATFORM: ForestExpress uses webMethods B2Bi Server as a core integration platform and must integrate with a variety of middleware products by utilizing multiple protocols and formats. ForestExpress trading partners have standardized on various formats including papiNet, a paper industry XML-based standard, other XML standards such as xCBL, flat files and EDI.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Integrating trading partner systems can be difficult when multiple formats exist. Key benefits of the Contivo's Enterprise Integration Modeling (EIM) Solution include its ability to quickly link up participants, especially when they are using different data standards.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Contivo's EIM Solution maps the format and structure of data within one business document into the format and structure of another business document based on a semantic model. Using this information, another component of the solution generates the necessary runtime code to connect the two maps. Reusability is another key advantage to this product. We are able to create reusable data models to automate data transformation processes; and because the code is auto-generated, it is more accurate.

STRENGTHS: One of the key strengths of the solution is mapping. We've reduced our current mapping time from four weeks to less than two weeks. We expect to further reduce it to less than one week as we build a library of maps that can be reused. Another strength is cost reduction. We expect to see a return on investment for Contivo's products within six months. In addition, our integration analysts are as much as two to three times more productive using Contivo tools. Implementation is a third key strength. The map testing function in the latest version is very effective in reducing implementation time. It checks the functionality, so we're sure the map works. In addition to cost reductions and faster implementation time frames, Contivo's platform-independence makes it a flexible solution for our hub partners. For example, we're finding that many trading partners are using BizTalk. Contivo's product can produce runtime components in either Java or XSLT, so you don't have to redo it for BizTalk.

WEAKNESSES: The only weakness we could identify was that the initial data transformations had to be mapped manually. However, subsequent maps are much easier because a good portion of the work is already completed.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Contivo as a result of painful and arduous early integration projects connecting 12 trading partners. We quickly realized that managing data integration connections manually would not scale to the extent required by our aggressive growth rates. At the recommendation of webMethods, we selected the Contivo EIM solution. We haven't looked back since.

DELIVERABLES: Contivo changed the way we approach mapping. We can now leverage the work we've already done and use it to build new connections faster. Contivo enables a strategic approach to data transformation. It reduces the time and cost of bringing on new partners, ultimately leading to faster customer revenue generation.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Contivo provided support during our implementation. They showed us how to do the first maps, and were able to handle all of our demands for getting trading partners up and running quickly.

DOCUMENTATION: Part of the Contivo solution includes the pre-modeled definitions for the standards. This, combined with our ability to model internal semantic models, provides all the documentation needed to accelerate the implementation process.

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