Well, it’s already a few weeks ago that we discussed three viewpoints on integration that may help to unfreeze your local Enterprise Application Integration expert. I stated that integration is actually something you want to avoid: it’s not a mission in life by itself; it’s merely a prerequisite to do exciting things in business, enabled by systems and information. If you can avoid integration and still achieve the same, do so by all means. Furthermore, it was pointed out that excellent integration tools are now available on the market, both in open source and as industry-strength, commercial packages. Don’t waste a second of your precious time building and maintaining homebrewed, non-standard solutions. Finally, I suggested to first focus on your data governance before even considering fancy projects around web services and that almighty Enterprise Service Bus.
Two weeks of time with arguments like that! You must have witnessed some changes in the behaviour of your integration experts next door. If by any change this is not the case, please have a look at four additional opening lines that are bound to help them break on through to the other side.
4. It comes with SAP
If your organisation’s appetite is in enterprise application packages, there’s a good chance that there is a healthy attitude towards standardisation and simplification. Hold that thought: please note that all major package platforms nowadays come with built-in integration architecture and middleware. And it’s all based on open standards. SAP is executing on an interesting strategy with the NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure module and likewise, Oracle created Fusion Middleware as the integration fundament for their, well, rich and diverse application portfolio (they sort of missed my first point of ‘avoiding integration in the first place’, then again they are certainly in control of the data). If you are searching for a shortcut to getting your integration architecture and platform up to speed, you may want to have a good look at what’s inside that ERP box.
5. Just put it in the server rack
Talking about boxes: until not so long ago we used to describe commoditising middleware through a metaphor: ‘if only setting up an integration platform was as easy as plugging in a black box’. The thing is, it’s no longer a metaphor. When it was announced under strict non-disclosure to Capgemini more than two years ago, we were absolutely fascinated by the concept of Cisco’s Application Oriented Networking: everything you need to connect services across the network built in on a board that slots into a data centre switch or edge router. Security, transformation, content-based routing, business rules, XML handling and authentication: it’s all in the appliance. And other suppliers, such as IBM and Intel, are quickly catching up. It’s a good unfreezing strategy, touching that neat, little device and simply ask yourself if life in Integration Hell would lighten up with a box like that in your server rack. Yeah, probably.
6. Amazon does it for you
Still not convinced that integration is quickly becoming a commodity that you just don’t want to be bothered with any longer? Amazon may be holding the key to your spiritual conversion. And it’s not even yet another book I am suggesting (why did nobody ever write ‘EAI for Dummies’ in the first place?). Actually, selling books through a website is so 2001. Nowadays, that is only one of the 35 product categories Amazon is offering. Much more interesting is their portfolio of Web Services, which include the Elastic Compute Cloud and the Simple Storage Service. All built on a robust infrastructure that doesn’t need to prove it self. Also quite relevant is the Simple Queue Service, which enables organisations to safely and quickly exchange messages at a rate of $1 for 5000 messages. One day you are buying a book, the other day you are using your same Amazon-account to rent an integration infrastructure. A true commodity and certainly ‘on demand’, I might add.
7. Only vertical matters
In the end, all you want to achieve is meaningful, boundaryless information flow, both inside and outside the corporation. It is truly a good sign if the main occupation of an integration expert is with vertical industry standards. Apparently, you’re assuming that all the hardware, software and basic interfaces are simply dealt with. Now it’s a matter of getting all the players in your ecosystem lined up to do something useful with all that wealth. I’m not claiming that is easier to create a vertical standard like Meat & Poultry XML (or e-Forestry Industry Data Standards) than it is to implement an integration infrastructure. But it’s certainly in an area closer to business, the place where we want to be with IT, remember. Reverse the cycle; think vertical standards first. The rest is just satisfying prerequisites.