A look into PiiE

CIOL Bureau
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Ashish Agarwal, MD, Digital Harbor, India tells us more about the PiiE platform that can enable Composite Applications.


What is Composite Application Platform?

Composite Applications draw and combine information and functionality from existing back-end, front-end, or legacy systems and expose the relevant pieces to users in new and highly interactive interfaces. From a business standpoint, composite applications fuse information and functionality from multiple sources to give users a more complete picture of a situation within an actionable format. From an architectural standpoint, composite applications deliver a new level of integration, not just physically moving data from source to source but actually synthesizing the information real-time so it can be analyzed and acted upon in the aggregate. From a development standpoint, composite applications represent a radically faster alternative to the development of brand new applications while still leveraging the investments IT has already made.



What is the technology/application/platform Digital Harbor works on?

Digital Harbor's PiiE provides the leading platform to enable Composite Applications. Built on J2EE and XML, PiiE introduces two new layers of information fusion and consumption services that make applications interactive and seamless and provides for a new level of semantic integration. PiiE extends an enterprise's infrastructure by giving IT the ability to assemble component-based applications at a radically lower time, cost, and skill level. By making it easy to build applications that are seamlessly composed from the parts of many others, PiiE gives end users the unprecedented ability to correlate information in one system with information in another, and to collaborate across functional and organizational boundaries.


What are the details? How different is it? How difficult is it?


PiiE consists of two fundamental layers.

PiiE's back-end, the PiiE Fusion Server, is a revolutionary new information management layer for semantic integration that sits on top of J2EE application servers and ties application services, processes, and rules together using a "schema across systems" called a Business Ontology. It is this concept of a Business Ontology that is key to the semantic integration offered by PiiE. By organizing knowledge in a discrete layer for use by information systems, ontologies, as a whole, enable communication between computer systems in a way that is independent of the individual system technologies, information architectures and applications. Mapping data sources to a common semantic model using ontologies offers a more scaleable and maintainable way to manage and integrate enterprise information.


PiiE 's front-end, the PiiE Smart Client, is a component-based interface that uses Java and XML to give users the functionality and richness of desktop applications plus the ease of administration and intuitive navigation of web applications. Instead of a static page composed of text and images that must refresh from the server, the application interface is a dynamic collection of components, each of which understands what piece of information it represents and how it is related to other components.


Instead of looking at integration as a machine-to-machine problem, Digital Harbor approaches it as a human-to-machine problem. In contrast to traditional EAI, which only physically synchronizes data between machines, Digital Harbor logically synthesizes information so users get more value from it. Digital Harbor's PiiE platform provides an "information architecture" layer that sits on top of existing J2EE "computational" infrastructure. Instead of writing code to tie pieces of data together, it uses semantic definitions in XML to describe the meaning and relationships among information from different sources and different types (operational data, business process metadata, rules, events, and messages). This approach means that the integration and development work can move from the narrow domain of hard-core technologists into the broader world of business analysts. As a result, organizations can begin to reduce the gap between with the business people want and what IT is able to deliver.

Digital Harbor's PiiE extends existing infrastructure to provide rapid application assembly of composite applications for end users. PiiE has been specifically designed to enable end users to seamlessly consume and interact with multiple disjointed applications as a unified composite application. With Digital Harbor's PiiE, users can fuse information to get a whole picture of the situation that is more valuable than the individual parts.

What competitor products are there in the market?

Two classes of emerging players are addressing the Composite Applications space for both a better approach to integration on the back end and a rich, dynamic user interface on the front end. On the back end, competitors include Enterprise Information Integration providers such as Composite Software, Contivo and Metamatrix. On the front end, this space often refers to the next generation of web client. Competition in this space comes from Altio, Droplets, and Curl, and from some larger players like Macromedia. Customers of Digital Harbor also explore existing solutions for EAI, custom web development, portals and workflows prior to choosing Digital Harbor. As this is a new space, no dominant players have yet to emerge in the market for Composite Applications, so market share metrics aren't yet meaningful.

What work has Digital Harbor being doing for the US Defense and Government?

Digital Harbor, The Composite Applications Company TM, got its start in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Community, which has spent over $25M on Digital Harbor solutions since 1997. Like many mainstream commercial organizations, the challenge for the U.S. intelligence community was that the number of applications and the raw amount of information was increasing geometrically, while budgets were only increasing incrementally. As the number and complexity of applications and information repositories grew, it was no longer possible to integrate them using traditional "static" approaches. A better solution was to connect applications and people at run-time by giving end-users the ability to fuse information in their context dynamically. Digital Harbor's PiiE platform was developed to provide major intelligence agencies and now enterprises with a superior information integration solution and a unique approach to better information management through extending existing applications and data sources into dynamic Composite Applications.

What are the plans for India?

With continued explosive growth in the US government market, and with a major launch planned for entrance into commercial opportunities, Digital Harbor is poised for significant global growth. As a result, we plan to add significantly more people in all areas of the company and to grow revenue aggressively. The Bangalore office is a key piece of this global expansion. The office will focus specifically on developing new vertical solutions for Digital Harbor’s innovative composite applications platform, PiiE, for manufacturing, healthcare, utilities and financial services: industries that are often prone to multiple disparate data sources, environmental pressures and legal mandates that require a new and innovative approach to information integration through the build out of dynamic, interactive composite applications.