Calling all integration experts!

Remember the old Universal Translator as modeled here by the late Mr. Spock? One of the first (or perhaps future?) examples of integration solutions, and certainly one of the most fondly rememberehttp://zagg-blog.s3.amazonaws.com/community/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/12581.jpgd! But at its heart, it is also an almost perfect representation of the integration challenges today. Many years ago, there was EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) which was all about integrating homegrown applications with purchased package applications and/or alien applications brought in from Mergers and Acquisitions activity. The challenge was to find a way to make these applications from different planets communicate with one another to increase return on assets and provide a complete view of enterprise activity. EAI tools appeared from vendors such as TIBCO, SeeBeyond, IBM, Vitria, Progress Software, Software AG and webMethods to mention just a few.

Then there came the SOA initiative. By building computer systems with applications in the form of reusable chunks of business functionality (called services) the integration challenge could be met by enabling different applications to share common services.

Now the eternal wheel is turning once again, with the integration challenge clothed in yet another disguise. This time it is all about integrating systems with completely different usage a resource characteristics such as mobile devices, IoT components and traditional servers, but also applications of completely new types such as mobile apps and cloud-based SaaS solutions. In an echo of the past, lines of business are increasingly going out and buying cloud-based services to solve their immediate business needs, or paying a third-party developer to create the App they want, only to then turn to IT to get them to integrate the new solutions with the corporate systems of record.

Once again the vendors will respond to these user needs, probably extending and redeveloping their existing integration solutions or maybe adding new pieces where required. But as you look for potential partners to help you with this next wave of integration challenges, it is worth keeping in mind possibly the most important fact of all; a fact that has been evident throughout the decades of integration challenges to date. Every single time the integration challenge has surged to the top of the priority list, the key differentiator contributing to eventual success is not the smarts built into the tools and software / appliances on offer. Rather it is all about the advice and guidance you can get from people with extensive experience in integration challenges. Whether from vendors or service providers, these skills are absolutely essential. When it comes down to it, the technical challenges of integration are just the tip of the iceberg; all the real challenges are how you plan what you are going to do and how you work across disciplines and departments to ensure the solution is right for your company. You don’t have the time to learn this – find a partner who has spent years steeped in integration and listen to what they have to say!

Open Source SOA – Are we there yet?

I am often asked whether open source (OSS) SOA is a reality yet – whether it is ready for prime-time, as they say.

The answer, as is often the case, is ‘It depends’. There are many OSS projects in the marketplace around ESBs, Integration and SOA, but just having a project in place is a long way from having production-ready software. For a start, there are the questions of maintenance, support and even indemnification against possible future legal activities. The most useful projects are those that have an associated commercial company addressing these types of areas.

However, the other aspect to consider is that most opern source projects are started and driven by technically adept programmers, so they tend to be oriented towards programmer usage. In SOA, this may be acceptable, depending on requirements, but it may also be desirable to have a solution more oriented to business analysts. They key is to be clear on what you want, and on what is being offered.

For a longer discussion on this topic, Lustratus has just published a free assessment of one particular OSS integration vendor, MuleSource, and its open source offering Mule. This paper considers a number of these types of key questions over OSS SOA, but of course in the MuleSource context.

Steve