Editor’s note: RTP Beat is a regular feature on Thursdays.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE … StrikeIron is in the process of closing a Series A round of undisclosed amount it will use to beef up sales and marketing of its Web services tools, says Bob Brauer, a founder and vice president for business development.

Brauer says he can’t release the funding details until the deal closes. But the 15-month old Durham-based company recently enticed us to its web services site with an invitation to sign up for its Web Services listing free. That’s a device Brauer says the company is using to promote its web services tools.

Brauer defines Web services as “software talking to software over the Internet. It’s like an instant messenger between computer systems sending information back and forth. It’s functionality over the Web, such as our tax rate service.”

They do that using XML code, which manages to bridge communication between all the disparate pieces.

The tax rate service lets users find tax data for any geographical location in the U.S. and Canada. “You provide the Zip code, it brings back tax rates for those locations, city, county, and state, and so forth,” he explains.

That service was previously available only by outright purchase of the database, which the buyer then had to update monthly and manage daily. “We struck a deal and now offer that as a Web service. Unlike cell phone companies that sell service by the minute, we sell hit packages.” A buyer pays from $20 to $200 for a given number of hits.

StrikeIron designed its Web services site to “work like Google on steroids,” says Brauer. “You type in a search term and pull all the public Web services that apply. If you search for “stock quotes” and pull up 20, each listing arrives with a series of icons that correspond to Strike Iron’s Web services tools.

Uptime monitor

Free ones include an online analyzer that will throw data at the Web service you’re considering and see how it comes back to test it. Another free service monitors the uptime of the Web service. “People building applications using external web services need to monitor that it’s always up,” says Brauer. “If it’s down, we send you email letting you know it was with the time and date.”

Another tool gives the user a rolling performance history when he clicks on a chart icon. Brauer says the company hopes that introducing users to its free services will entice them to try the advanced features and for fee services the company sells. Those include a credit card Web service.

Back from the Amazon

Brauer also notes the company can provide its Web services and tools to an Enterprise company behind its own firewall. Again, Brauer says StrikeIron hopes that if people find its tools useful externally, they may want to take them in house to manage internally.

Brauer tells Local Tech Wire that a few thousand customers are using the tools, some of which are free while others are fee-based. “This is still a developing market and after we close this round we’ll have more sales and marketing muscle,” says Brauer.

Brauer just returned from a meeting with Amazon.com in Seattle. “The Amazon folks are very big in the Web Services space, and we hope we can pull some sort of deal together. We have one with them now we would like to make a lot bigger.”

StrikeIron, which launched in March 2003 already, has 15 employees. “We think we have a real opportunity as a first mover,” Brauer says, noting his company is a pioneer in the space.

Gartner says Web services will be the dominant mode of deployment for new software in a few years. Analysts also foresee 70 percent of global 2000 companies using some form of web service this year, Brauer says.

The StrikeIron Web site quotes none other than Bill Gates at the Gartner Symposium, San Diego, March 29:

“Web services give us the ability of any software component, written in any language, running on any operating system, to find and connect up to and exchange in a secure, reliable, transacted way information with another piece of software,” Gates said.

StrikeIron: www.strikeiron.com