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Merely half a dozen years ago, most integration was done by hand-coding interfaces between systems, point-to-point. This solution was extremely expensive, time consuming, and non-adaptable. Adding or changing a system required changes in several other systems. Today there is a plethora of available integration technologies from over a hundred vendors. The question is, which technology offers the right solution for you?

A reader recently asked whether Microsoft BizTalk or WebSphere Application Server was a better solution for aggregating back-end data for an integrated customer portal. Future plans were for an employee portal. The answer is that neither is the best solution. (To find out the best solution, see below).

The problem now is that there are so many vendors and solutions to choose from, it's very confusing. Even knowing where to begin is challenging. As you will see shortly, the buyer above did not have the right short list. That could be an extremely costly mistake. How do you know which solution is right for the business problem you're trying to solve?

To help integration buyers navigate the confusing integration market, ebizQ created the ebizQ Integration Buyer's Guide. It begins with the "Integration Services Map." The Map defines different types of integration solutions, and the integration technologies that can be utilized to implement each. Each solution may be delivered by one or more integration-related technologies. The solution categories listed on the map are:

  • Application Integration includes all technologies that might be used to connect disparate applications both inside and outside the firewall, from Message Brokers, Enterprise Service Buses, and Application Adapters, to Legacy Integration, B2B Integration, Portals, Mobile, and Application Routers. The last is a new hardware/software integration solution similar to the old network protocol converters - a black box that you plug into the network, and which converts and routes messages.

  • Information Integration provides a way to consolidate information from multiple sources into a single interface, as if all the information came from a single database. The technologies that provide information integration include Enterprise Information Integration (EII) solutions, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems, and metadata repositories (which can be part of the previous two solutions).

  • Composite Applications are most appropriate when you need to implement new business functionality from a combination of new and existing services. Composite applications are also best suited to the service oriented architecture (SOA) model. The technologies to implement composite applications include Web services, application platforms, and orchestration tools which can graphically depict, then generate the code to orchestrate the flow of messages across systems.

  • Business Process Monitoring and Management provides a business-level approach to integration. Companies seeking to optimize business processes, reduce operational costs, and gain real-time visibility into key performance indicators will be interested in Business Process Management (BPM) software, Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) and collaboration software (also called groupware).

  • Compliance and Industry Solutions created on integration platforms provide productized solutions. This means they may provide anywhere from 50-90% of the business solution. However, it should be noted that the solutions bring with them the integration technology infrastructure, which should be utilized for further integration solutions rather than bringing in redundant technology. Companies focused on compliance or specific industry initiatives that require integration should look at the vendors in this category.


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