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6/10/2009
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Taking The Pain Out Of Data Integration

Data integration is a big headache for smaller businesses. Can Jitterbit's "no coding" software solution offer a remedy?

Data integration is a big headache for smaller businesses. Can Jitterbit's "no coding" software solution offer a remedy?Multi-source data integration was once an issue that concerned only large enterprises. Yet as more smaller firms employ various applications to store, manage, deliver, and analyze business data, they face many of the same integration challenges.

Smaller firms, however, often lack the in-house IT resources to tackle data-integration projects. That leaves them with an unpleasant choice: Hire outside developers capable of doing the job, or avoid complex data-integration tasks completely.

The first option is expensive, and the second can place a company at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Over the past few years, a number of software vendors have introduced a third option: Data-integration tools designed for business users with limited IT expertise.

Jitterbit recently launched version 3.0 of its commercial open-source data integration software. It is designed to allow non-programmers to integrate data from a variety of data sources, including enterprise applications, databases, content management systems, Web 2.0 applications, and software-as-a-service apps. Jitterbit's client-side interface, for example, supplies graphical, drag-and-drop data mapping and transformation components that allow a user to build their own data-integration tools.

A key selling point for Jitterbit is its use of "Jitterpaks": Modular, reuseable packages that abstract the process of integrating and working with particular sets of data sources. Companies may distribute Jitterpaks internally, allowing them to handle similar data-integration tasks in the future still more easily. Jitterbit also offers its own collection of Jitterpaks that cover a variety of common applications and integration scenarios.

With Jitterbit 3.0, the company is introducing a number of new features designed mostly for large enterprise users, including streamlined support for multi-user, multi-project environments. In a recent interview, however, Jitterbit CTO Ilan Sehayek said that as midsize companies learn how to work with his company's product, they often deploy it far more widely, and use it for more complex projects, than they initially planned.

As a commercial open-source vendor, Jitterbit distributes both a free "community" version of its software and a paid "enterprise" version that includes support and service.

Can Jitterbit offer a silver-bullet solution for every data integration project? Probably not, since problems as simple as a character-mapping disparity or a bit of sloppy SQL can monkey-wrench a project and require on-site, expert assistance to fix.

As a solution, however, for reducing the marginal cost and complexity of a data-integration project, Jitterbit is a very interesting product. The company claims that its "no coding" approach can cut the delivery time of a project by up to 80 percent. That's a compelling promise, since it also reduces the need to hire expert data-integration consultants -- or to tie up in-house IT staff better employed elsewhere.

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