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February 4, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

Web application and XML server company Bluestone Software Inc, one of the few still-independent application server companies around, is keeping a close watch on the market and if all goes to plan, should launch its initial public offering in the third quarter of this year. Web application development tools company Allaire Corp recently went public and is now valued at more than $600m, which has not escaped Bluestone’s attention. Bluestone’s senior VP marketing John Capobianco says the company has sales of $16m and $30m in the pipeline for the first and second quarters respectively. And if the company meets its target of closing about one quarter of those, it should be ready to break even and go public in the third quarter, with profitability coming in the fourth quarter. Bluestone did approximately $14m in revenues in 1998. The Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based company this week announced an XML server and tool as it believes this is the year when the early adoption of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) begins to happen, in the same way that application servers became the software to have in 1998 and led to many of the company’s rivals being acquired. The XML server converts a data source to XML and then it can be used to send that file to any other XML server. The company is not worried that it might be too much at the bleeding edge with its XML activity, only to be trumped by others following behind and reaping the benefits. Bob Bickel, the company’s senior VP product and business development says that some of the enterprise application integration companies – notably the beleaguered CrossWorlds Inc – have struggled because they have adopted the wrong kind of technology and there are lessons to be learned from them. XML is easier to understand – it’s just a document – extensible by definition and it’s not the subject of the usual fractious rows that engulf would-be software standards (01/15/99). It is due to be supported in the next generation of browsers from Microsoft Corp and Netscape Communications Corp. XML is overseen by the W3C, which is not a standards body, but makes recommendations that the vendors that comprise the W3C follow. So far there is no discord in the industry, says Beck and everybody seems to be on the same page as far as XML is concerned. Bluestone uses XML purely as a data interaction tool, not for document storage or management. One would-be standard that is getting a little fractious these days is of course Java, in which Bluestone’s Sapphire web application server is written. The company is part of Sun Microsystems Inc’s Enterprise Java Beans roundtable, but Bickel is not hopeful that EJB will be central to its plans over the next couple of years, although it announced EJB support for Sapphire/Web in September 1998. Bickel believes that it won’t be until the 2.0 spec is finalized in anything up to two years’ time that EJB will finally take off, and by that time there will have been four specs released (1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 2.0) adding to the confusion. Sun is also struggling to keep its reference implementations and test suites in line with the spec releases, says Bickel. And as for COM versus Corba, neither are scalable and both of them are hard to use, says Bickel. Bluestone has had a sales force for six months and it now accounts for 43 of its 150 or so employees. Some sell direct, but most sell to the channel and the company’s ISV partners.

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