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Spearheading Data Integration

Business intelligence tools have taken the lead on solving the thorny problems related to cross-platform data integration. Our expert explores the options available to IT organizations.
Business Process Management Tools

If you take a look at some of the key BPM vendors, you'll see that they, like EAI firms, are spread over a wide swath of IT disciplines, from content management and modeling to messaging basic workflow. The common denominator among all the BPM players is a cross-platform, enterprise orientation with expertise in asynchronous messaging.

What follows are some of the other interoperability and data integration capabilities common among many BPM vendors:

  • Visual modeling and design of workflows and basic forms
  • Incorporation of unstructured data and media as objects with properties
  • Built-in collaboration, messaging, multi-path notifications and auditing
  • Ongoing monitoring, managing and control of workflows
  • Authentication, authorization, compression, encryption and identity capabilities that go further even than most mail, instant messaging and collaboration systems
  • Cross-platform delivery through a variety of mechanisms beyond classic messaging
  • High levels of security, reliability, and capacity, using both synchronous and asynchronous methodologies
  • Use of scripting to validate, report on and manage workflows. Most scripting is proprietary, however.
Among data integration technologies, BPM offers the largest number of vendors, and a lower level of standards agreement.

Asynchronous processing, collaboration and messaging are relatively old disciplines that have really taken off in the past five to six years as distributed processing has matured. This means that BPM software, old and new, addresses tough issues of interoperability and data-sharing across platforms and applications.

Summary

We can see common strengths among the three major data integration application sets. As previously noted, demand for cross-OS platform and hardware devices is growing as the possibility of information any time, anywhere, and on any device comes closer to fruition. Data integration systems are increasingly taking advantage of data dictionaries, metadata repositories, and business rules engines. Design and mapping of data integration is becoming easier through the use of visual designers and the wizard-based generation of ETL services. Vendors such as SeeBeyond, webMethods, BEA and IBM are positioning themselves as already integrating all the key technologies discussed in this article. Given the rapid change and evolution in the field, that's a formidable task.

However, each data integration application has its individual strengths and competencies. BI possesses the ability to deliver the right info, at the right place and time, and in the right format. EAI has many different engines for the tough job of moving data between applications. BPM brings rich, real-time event and business rule filters for moving both structured and unstructured data between tasks. Clearly, as data integration and interoperability emerge as a crucial attribute for new systems, vendors are going to deliver a wider range of effective solutions.

Jacques Surveyer is a consultant and trainer; see some of his tips and tutorials at theOpenSourcery.com.