Why is integration no longer cool?

People keep telling me Integration is no longer cool. It’s a bad word, with poor connotations.

Tough challenges, mean deadlines, pain, anguish, lots of hard work, failed projects, and perhaps most importantly ‘boring’. I speak with a lot of vendors, and they tell me they are moving away from using the ‘integration’ word in their materials.

I wondered if this meant that companies are no longer interested in integration. But the more users I talk to, the more I am convinced that the need for business integration is real, as companies look to streamline processes, smooth out the value chain, leverage investments and cope with yet another up-swell in mergers and acquisitions. So why is integration no longer cool?

My own belief is that this stems from two main causes – ‘the marketplace’ (software vendors, analysts, media, etc) likes to have new causes to champion fairly constantly, and users have had so many difficulties with integration that they are suffering a Pavlov effect, wincing whenever the word is used.

I have heard many attempts to get around the use of the I word. One way is to latch onto the next technology advance (or retreat!) to emerge, such as Broker, Web Services, SOA and ESB. This is the approach generally chosen by the marketplace, since it gives a way to sound like you are discussing or selling something new and shiny. Another way is to try to describe user goals in some other way, like Interoperability, or common services.

But in the end, it seems to me the basic facts remain unchanged. Legacy systems are a reality. And not just mainframe systems, but packages, SQL Server-based warehouses, UNIX servers and so on. Autonomy is also real – different parts of the business will buy solutions that suit them, but efficient business is almost certain to demand interoperability with others systems. M&As do happen. Business get tired of always having to spend money and time building new things, when using bits that already exist is quicker, cheaper and competitively stronger. Functional outsourcing through Software as a Service can offer real cost savings.

So my conclusion is, although the fad may dictate that the integration word is out of fashion, the need is just as real as it ever was. I don’t care what people call it – it is a challenge that will be with us for years to come.


Posted in Imported, SOA.