The Year In Review And Looking Forward To The New

Few in IT will mourn the passing of 2002. This has been one of the longest and hardest recessions to hit the IT industry. IT talent in high demand and short supply just a couple of years ago is now on unemployment lines. Foreign workers on special IT visas have been sent home. Integration companies have seen their stock prices fall from lofty triple digits to lowly single digits and some are teetering on being de-listed. In 2002 survival was the key strategy of most companies.

Despite the economic doom and gloom, a recent Morgan Stanley survey of 225 CIOs listed integration as their number one priority. So even as the economy crawls its way to recovery in 2003, ebizQ remains bullish on integration. In short, integration is and will remain a requirement for doing business in the new worldwide e-Business economy.

In this column we take a look back on the developments of 2002, and venture some predictions and recommendations for the year ahead.

Looking Back at 2002

In lean times, survival drives strategy. For integration companies, survival strategies included providing lower-cost tactical integration solutions, providing pre-built industry solutions, and hyping new technologies.

The prolonged recession has followed Darwin's law of survival of the fittest ("e-Business Meets Darwin"). Integration fitness includes consolidation of the integration stack, including application development, integration, and B2B integration. Most vendors have done this through mergers and acquisitions. However, in some cases this means the integration technologies are not fully integrated across the vendors' offerings. The B2B solution may use a different integration engine and different adapters than the application integration server, which may be a different platform than the business process integration server.

Many of the vendors, including IBM, SeeBeyond, SoftwareAG, and TIBCO began offering low cost tactical integration solutions. After these same vendors scrambled to fill out the full integration platform, they found IT budgets more available for tactical integration projects than for enterprise infrastructure platforms. In some cases these lower cost solutions are just limited licenses. In contrast, some vendors stuck to a tactical strategy. SoftwareAG focuses on XML integration solutions. iWay has become the adapter company, offering a wide range of application connectivity solutions. DataJunction offers low cost solutions for the small to medium size business market. DataMirror offers data integration and resiliency solutions.

Pre-built industry solutions for finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, energy, transportation and logistics, and government are proving to be a good survival strategy for integration companies. Pre-built solutions (which may provide anywhere from 50-90% of the overall solution) enable fast implementations with fewer risks. It is easier for CEOs to approve business solutions than infrastructure technology. The underlying enabling technology for these solutions tends to be business process management (BPM) software. By using BPM technologies, vendors can provide business model templates that are fast and easy to adapt to individual implementations. This trend was so prevalent in 2002 that it pervaded all sectors of the integration market. Integration platform vendors including Vitria, SeeBeyond, IBM, Mercator, Sybase, WebMethods and TIBCO provide vertical industry solutions. Some of them partnered with integrators to make products out of solutions for different industries. Vitria and Sybase have invested in bringing domain expertise in-house to develop solutions. Quovadx, built on a process-based integration platform, offers a wide range of solutions for the healthcare market. CommerceQuest, Sterling Commerce and Inovis focus on B2B industry solutions that offer integration to back-end applications. The BPM vendors, including Fuego, Metastorm, and Metaserver all provide industry solution templates.

The other strategy is to ride a wave of hype. Web Services has to receive my vote as the most hyped technology of 2002. However, a recent ebizQ poll revealed the vast majority of our audience was still in the research or pilot stages of Web Services implementation. We believe that the true value and promise of this technology lies in companies creating a reusable and adaptable service-based architecture with standard interfaces. We do not envision a brave new world of e-Business where applications will automatically scan UDDI directories, dynamically find a web service and automatically institute a business relationship by consuming the service. Businesses will continue to be run on relationships with known partners and suppliers. Web Services is just a standardized way of providing Web-based services. However, we predict that the mainframe will the be most valuable repository of Web Services for companies seeking to leverage existing assets and extend them to new business applications. Vendors focusing on Web Services for the mainframe market include WRQ, Jacada, Seagull, and Attachmate.

Looking Forward to 2003 - Predictions and Recommendations

While market consolidation may leave you with fewer vendors to choose from, the good news is that you are more likely to find a solution in the price range that will meet your needs. However, while implementing tactical solutions, ebizQ recommends a strategic planning approach. Integration technology is a necessity for delivering real-time information and competitive advantage in the age of e-Business. History and experience with distributed applications have shown that when companies implement infrastructure on a tactical and piecemeal basis, the long-term costs and complexity skyrocket. The ebizQ recommendation is to plan strategically and implement tactically.

One trend to watch in 2003 is the emergence of the application server as THE enterprise server. Applications servers provide critical run-time services including connection management and pooling, failover, load balancing, and integrated security. The application server market has experienced the highest rate of consolidation. (I would like to take a moment to mourn the passing of Bluestone, which has been mothballed by HP, but which was nonetheless an elegant piece of software engineering). However, the trend in 2003 will be to use the app server as the integration platform. BEA, Sybase, and IONA are offering platforms that will include integration, B2B, Web Services and business process management running on top of the application server. This integrated infrastructure based on standards has the potential to lower training, implementation, and operational costs.

Business Process Management (BPM) is likely to drive more integration efforts as companies move into real-time business. As mentioned above, all the integration vendors are providing BPM solutions. Interestingly, this is one segment of the integration market that is expanding rather than consolidating. There are numerous pure-play BPM solutions available including Fuego, Metastrom, Lombardi, Fujitsu, Savvion, and Metaserver. Additionally, workflow and document management vendors including Filenet and Staffware are entering this market. There is a wide variety of capabilities in BPM offerings. Gartner Group is pushing the concept of Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), which adds real-ime analytics to operational process management. We see a number of new vendors coming forward to address BAM, which includes business intelligence. Real-time visibility into business processes will help drive the real-time enterprise. We predict BPM and BAM will become hot trends in 2003 as business-led integration efforts.

As integration initiatives become more mission critical, overall monitoring, security and management will become more important. Candle and BMC offer far more robust management capabilities than can be found natively in the integration platforms. For tips and tricks in securing and optimizing your enterprise platforms, be sure to tune into Candle's webinar on expoQ.

Mobile integration did not take off as quickly as we predicted. While it is likely to become an important part of the infrastructure, at the moment the recession seems to be repressing widespread implementation. However, for some companies, it will provide competitive advantage in 2003. Mobile integration is still a separate market. Most of the integration companies are partnering to provide it. Check out Citrix, Orsus, and XORA if you're looking for a mobile integration solution.

Lastly, no one is predicting a quick fix for the economy. ROI will continue to be important to companies when investing IT dollars. While we predict integration projects will remain at the top of the list, IT managers will need to justify investments in terms of business benefits. Tune in to past and future expoQ webinars to learn how to determine the ROI of your integration projects and how to determine which key metrics to monitor.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2003!

About the Author

Beth Gold-Bernstein is an author and independent consultant specializing in SOA solutions.

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