Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Developing a Strategic Approach to Integration

Most organizations understand the importance of integrating their business applications. Similarly, they recognize the need to enable disparate databases to communicate and share data effectively. However, in most organizations, application integration and data integration are two distinct activities, performed by different IT personnel with different skill sets. Typically, software engineers are responsible for application integration, getting unrelated applications to work together, whereas data integration is usually performed by data architects and database administrators.

Dilbert - by Scott Adams

There are many potential synergies between these integration activities from both a technological and practical point of view. Integrating applications with data sources is fundamental to improving the overall efficacy of the organization’s workflow. However, because they are conducted by different groups using different tools and methodologies, only an organization-wide policy shift can bring them together.

In many cases, enterprises will develop a specific integration solution for a particular mash-up project between an application and a data storage unit. Such solutions, though, are designed as part of a project-based, ad-hoc, tactical approach. When confronted with the next integration challenge, the IT team will need to start again from scratch. A recent Gartner survey[1] found that less than a third of enterprises have deployed their chosen data integration tools enterprise-wide.

The way forward is to develop a more holistic approach to integration as a core activity in and of itself. This means establishing an application and data integration strategy that implements a single integration paradigm on a unified infrastructure for all types of integration projects. This strategic approach flattens all elements of the integration projects, enabling enterprises to rely on a single team of integrators, who don't require expertise in a specific application programming interface, code, or technology to be able to handle even very complex integration projects.

Vital to the transition to a genuine integration strategy is the adoption and implementation of clear standards in the information architecture of the enterprise. A standards-based integration strategy, such as SOA, enables integrators to develop higher-level and more generic standardized processes instead of the low-level, project-specific solutions developed by a tactical approach. A standardized and coherent integration infrastructure keeps the projects clean, repeatable, and technology-agnostic.

Vendors of IT solutions, increasingly aware of the growing demand for business agility, are more frequently offering product suites with embedded software that adds application integration and data integration features. However, in most cases, these solutions do not address integration from a strategic perspective and do not combine the two types of integration at the infrastructure level.

Integrating applications and data in separate, unrelated processes is no longer sufficient. Enterprises need to deploy an integration platform that can provide comprehensive, end-to-end support for their entire range of business processes. By consolidating all integration projects onto one platform, enterprises can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance business agility.

Magic’s iBOLT is a leading business integration platform that implements a code-free, metadata-based approach to integration. With iBOLT, the details of any integration project are transparent for the integrators. They can handle the information in a single interface in exactly the same way, regardless of whether it originates from an application or from a database.

For more information about iBOLT, visit: www.magicsoftware.com.

[1] Applicationand Data Integration: Converging Disciplines or Not? Presented at Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit: November 29-December 1, 2011, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV