Product Reviews

Synergy Unchained

ecKnowledge provides information for the Enterprise

The challenge facing the eCommerce and B2B world has been how to make information available among business partners as quickly and easily as possible, with a minimum of overhead cost and a maximum of flexibility. Enter Casahl’s ecKnowledge 7.1, a new generation of software designed to achieve the elusive solution of synthesis, integration and synergy for information sharing. The new software, which is essentially an upgrade to Replic-Action (RA) 6.0 with additional B2B functionalities and a new XML connector, seeks to build collaborative peer networks to share information within and between enterprises. The product fills this niche well.

Despite a somewhat lengthy list of requirements (including ODBC drivers and messaging software), installation was straightforward and quite simple. The software includes examples and samples; within a short time, everything was up and running smoothly.

The well-written documentation includes a 100-page installation and configuration booklet and a 350-page developer’s guide. The online help was adequate and equally well organized.

ecKnowledge turns out to be nothing less than a powerful ASP-hostable eBusiness solution that addresses collaboration, information exchange and XML transaction requirements. The product allows the user to integrate existing systems within a company and securely share information with eBusiness partners and customers over the Internet. These Enterprise Peer Networks are robust, flexible and resilient.

This collaboration framework also enables companies to collect information from one or more locations, transport the information securely over a data network, and consolidate it. The consolidator could be the headquarters of a worldwide organization that gathers information from its multinational offices or a regional office that collects data from its branches.

Among ecKnowledge’s more valuable capabilities are those that allow businesses to send and receive information securely via the Internet. The product lets you create publication, subscription and broadcast jobs.

A publication sends information across the Internet from one eBusiness partner to another. The information can be formatted in either XML or ecKnowledge’s own internal format. A broadcast is a publication with multiple recipient partners. The Server Manager includes tracking for these job types.

Consolidation jobs allow users to gather information from multiple eBusiness partner sites and consolidate it at a single location. This is a one-way job that collects information, transports it to the consolidating partner’s site (through communication protocols such as HTTP and FTP), and absorbs (i.e. extracts and writes) the incoming data into a single target data source on the consolidator’s site using a variety of formats (including XML).

If flexible means being able to deal with a variety of environments, applications, protocols, security models, servers and data sources, then ecKnowledge isn’t merely flexible, it is double-jointed. In addition to flexibility of communications, the system catalog and log can be stored in SQL Server, Sybase ASE, Access, Lotus Notes, Exchange and Sybase System 10/11. LDAP can be used as a data source.

ecKnowledge works with existing enterprise security infrastructures and doesn’t require changes to firewalls.

It’s unlikely that the average MCP is going to find a use for this product on a home computer or in a workgroup environment. But having said that, I’d be remiss in not pointing out that—in the burgeoning world of information exchange and eCommerce—it won’t to be too long before we need to be familiar with products in this class.

About the Author

David W. Tschanz, Ph.D., MCSE, is author of the recent "Exchange Server 2007 Infrastructure Design: A Service-Oriented Approach" (Wiley, 2008), as well as co-author of "Mastering Microsoft SQL Server 2005" (Sybex, 2006). Tschanz is a regular contributor to Redmond magazine and operates a small IT consulting firm specializing in business-oriented infrastructure development.


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