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Leveraging Information and Intelligence

David Linthicum

Data Integration at the User Interface?

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When I wrote the EAI book back in the 90s I described several froms of integration, including data level, method or service level, API level, and user interface level.   

Addressing the user interface as a point of integration was a bit of leap for me.   Indeed, many found it "too primitive," and thus should be excluded from the book.   However, I left it in and I'm glad I did.  Clearly, it's an effective form of interfacing with an application, and has proven to be effective and efficient as well.

From my book:

"User interface level EAI, the most primitive of all EAI levels, is also the most necessary.  Other EAI levels might be more technologically appealing and more efficient, but the simple reality is that, in many applications, the user is the only available mechanism for accessing logic and data.  In spite of its inefficiency in 'getting into' an application, the user interface has an advantage in that it does not require any changes to the source or target application."

To this point there are a few companies that just focus on this type of integration today, and have gone well beyond the traditional uses as well.   A few that comes to mind include Kapow, who provides technology to access information on Web pages using very sophisticated mechanisms, and Open Span, providing technology to access any information you can see on your desktop, and address that information in any number of ways for whatever architecture use, including data integration.   

The need for this is clear.   Many applications, Web sites, and packaged systems don't provide APIs or other ways to access the data.   However, they always provide some sort of user interface and in many instances that's the only way to access the data for integration with other systems.  This includes turning primitive and poorly structured screens of information, into more modern data service for data integration, or other purposes.

I suspect this form of integration will continue to be popular going forward, and something you should consider if your information systems are lacking well defined interfaces, and they typically are.

 

 

4 Comments

Data integration at user interface, although a very old technique, is still very effective. Moreover, handling data integration at that level is also easier for the administrator.

Process-centric, Services (SOA)-based approach to Integration. Integrate in hours and days.

Hello David,

Although this is an article of some time ago, I was wondering if you know if there are more tools around nowadays who do use the user interface as a point of integration. You named two: OpenSpan and Kapow, and I know that BluePrism is doing this as well, but do you know if there are more like this nowadays?

Regards, Hans

When you said 'Addressing the user interface as a point of integration was a bit of leap for me. Indeed, many found it "too primitive," and thus should be excluded from the book. However, I left it in and I'm glad I did. Clearly, it's an effective form of interfacing with an application, and has proven to be effective and efficient as well.' I finally understood the importance of this.

Industry expert Dave Linthicum tells you what you need to know about building efficiency into the information management infrastructure

David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the CTO of Blue Mountain Labs, and an internationally known distributed computing and application integration expert. View more

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