April 06, 2000

At first glance, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein may seem an unlikely convert to the open source movement. After all, investment bankers have little in common with the group of programmers responsible for bringing the Linux operating system into the world. However, Dresdner-the investment banking arm of Germany-based Dresdner Bank-expects to profit from baring the guts of its "Openadaptor" software to the world.

Openadaptor connects systems to the messaging middleware layer of an enterprise network, which in turn guarantees delivery of messages and data between systems. The messaging middleware layer, also known as EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), consists of software such as NEON, IBM's MQ Series and Tibco.

"Imagine all your systems thrown together with a classic diagram, with all of the arrows coming out them going into some cloud for messaging middleware," said Fred Perry, assistant director of IT architecture at Dresdner. "Openadaptor provides the arrows."

Although middleware excels at the delivery of messages, Openadaptor specializes in their packaging. Data earmarked for another system often requires reformatting, cross-referencing, filtering and exception processing prior to delivery. The logic to accomplish these tasks traditionally resided within the proprietary system that created the message. Now it can reside within an application built using Openadaptor, providing "message independence from the middleware that you're using," said Perry.

"We couldn't buy something like Openadaptor because none of the EAI vendors were attacking the problem of talking to different middleware," he added.

Dresdner initially developed Openadaptor to support its own global equities derivative trading system. The software soon spread across the enterprise. "We have something like 70 different projects in all global locations within Dresdner using the software. Plus, we have external clients using the software as well," said Perry. "We didn't want to have all that work based on proprietary standards. The best way of doing that was to make it open."

The Openadaptor software will aid Dresdner in forging closer customer relationships while enhancing its image as a technologically-savvy bank. For example, using Openadaptor, a corporate client can better support its foreign currency derivatives hedging strategies by exchanging trade information and constantly-updated portfolio valuations with the bank. Hence Dresdner's lack of interest in the business of selling software licenses.

"We're an investment bank, not a software house," said Jonathan Lindsell, director of information technology at Dresdner.

Other companies are welcome to use and modify Openadaptor. "The license agreement not only allows freedom of use for individuals and organizations, but we're not prohibiting a company from taking this technology and adding some value to it, almost turning it back into a proprietary offering," said Lindsell.

Other parties are encouraged to participate in its development. "We're extremely keen for other people to get involved in that moderator role," said Perry. Software from CollabNet, Brisbane, Calif., manages the collaborative development platform.

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