Ken Ross is one of software’s quiet stars. In 1972, he founded Ross Systems Inc, a central player in the world of midrange finance software. In 1990, he was the start-up CEO of Documentum Inc, the technology pace-setter in document software. Then he founded Pillar Corp, a budgeting software company sold to Hyperion in 1995. […]
Ken Ross is one of software’s quiet stars. In 1972, he founded Ross Systems Inc, a central player in the world of midrange finance software. In 1990, he was the start-up CEO of Documentum Inc, the technology pace-setter in document software. Then he founded Pillar Corp, a budgeting software company sold to Hyperion in 1995. To a large extent, though, all of these companies have been about the automation of workaday office tasks – accounts, forecasting, document processing. In contrast, Ross’ latest creation, Extricity Software Inc, is addressing a much wider horizon: changing the patterns of commerce itself.
Redwood Shores, California-headquartered Extricity sees its remit as providing the key application integration component that will allow businesses to use the internet to interact as virtual trading communities. As such, its sole focus on business-to- business (B2B) application integration sets it apart from much of the rest of the enterprise application integration software market, where the attention to date has been on meshing together the applications of single organizations. But with the B2B market barely under way, there is plenty of debate among analysts as to whether that distance from ‘traditional’ EAI will be an advantage or disadvantage.
Founded originally as CrossRoute Software in April 1996 by Ross and chief technology officer Greg Olsen, Extricity offers the Alliance Suite, a set of internet-based technologies that manage the exchange of applications data and logic between a company and its network of suppliers, trading partners and customers. It supports numerous communications mechanisms – XML, FTP, SMTP, EDI, or simply a web browser – and offers a set of adapters for linking common packaged applications such as SAP, Baan, PeopleSoft and Oracle to the Alliance application server hub. Additionally, the company offers several ‘out of the box’ integration templates for use in specific industry settings, notably in semiconductors, electronic device manufacturer, consumer packaged goods, third-party logistics and e-commerce supply-side integration. The price for an Alliance hub with 10 connections to satellite trading partners stands at around $400,000.
To build this technology, the company has sourced $25m in funding from a list of blue-chip backers including SAP, Intel, Cambridge Technology Capital, Bay Partners, BJ Cassin, Piper Jaffray Ventures and Telos Ventures, plus individual input from the ex- CEO of American Express, James Robinson and the founders of Baan.
Since launching the Alliance Suite in December 1997, Ross has sold 100 licenses that fan out from six hubs, notably at Adaptec, Ingram Micro, Solectron, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and North Face. At this stage, Extricity’s management declines to discuss the company’s finances publicly, only indicating that revenues are growing at more than 100% and are akin to those of its rivals Active Software Inc and Vitria Technology Inc, which puts them in the $5m to $10m range.
Although these companies – and others such as CrossWorlds Software Inc and Tibco Inc – are extending their product lines to include both internal EAI and B2B integration, Ken Ross argues that the two markets are mutually exclusive. Many EAI companies are now rushing to re-word their marketing material to reflect the new market conditions, but their product architecture is unsuitable for supporting B2B integration, he says.
Its approach has impressed analysts. Kimberly Knickle at AMR Research suggests that in business community integration, Extricity offers the most sophisticated product, [the only such product that] provides external business process modeling. Given that, Ken Ross’ latest software venture could be his greatest.
This article originally appeared in our sister publication Computer Business Review. á