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We all know that there are plenty of enterprise application integration (EAI) vendors out there, and most have been around for a number of years now. With marketing, advertisements, and trade show booths, theyíre hard to miss. But what you might not know is that those vendors arenít the only place you can obtain EAI software from.

Fact is, thereís a robust and growing community of folks who are working on Open Source software and Free Software (OSS/FS) toolkits for EAI. Open Source and Free Software are two terms commonly used to define software programs that include source code and the rights to modify that code and redistribute it. While a bit different in philosophy, both the Open Source Initiative (www.opensource.org) and Free Software Foundation (www.gnu.org) promote the distribution of software with source code and a collection of associated rights.

While OSS/FS software may in fact be free, it isnít always, as anyone whoís purchased Linux knows. Free Software refers to the usersí freedom to use the software as they want, including modifying and redistributing. As the Free Software Foundation notes: think of free software as in free speech, not free beeróitís a matter of liberty, not price. Most Free Software is distributed on the GNU Public License (GPL) from the Free Software Foundation, while Open Source software may be released under GPL, Mozilla Public License, other public licenses.

But now back to EAI. OSS/FS toolkits for EAI provide an excellent opportunity for organizations to explore EAI concepts and develop integration solutions for specific problems. While often not as complete or polished as commercial EAI products, OSS/FS EAI toolkits are appropriate for technically sophisticated shops that want either a low cost of entry, the flexibility to try before they commit, or access to source code to extend, modify, or adapt for their specific needs.

A sampling of OSS/FS EAI products includes (but is not limited to) the following:

--openadaptor (www.openadaptor.org): A Java/XML-based software toolkit that provides a series of interface components for JMS, Oracle, Sybase, MSSQL Server, TIBCO, and other data sources. Itís designed to help developers link and automate the exchange of information among different applications

--OpenEAI project (www.openeai.org): Originally started as an outgrowth of the University of Illinoisí need to link 150 applications together along with its ERP system. The OpenEAI Software Foundation oversees the development of the OpenEAI project, an EAI infrastructure platform and set of message-oriented APIs that provide patterns for building application gateways and message-aware applications via XML


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