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When Worlds Collide

To meet compliance requirements, gain a sharper view of customers and achieve process excellence, look to new integration technology that can merge separate data resources.
The federated approach is essential to EII, the technology that is right now roiling the data warehousing industry. EII approaches from Composite Software, Avaki and other vendors optimize access to heterogeneous data sources and deliver a single, comprehensive view of a customer, for example. Fiery debates aside, EII will never replace centralized data warehousing; both approaches have merits and will have to coexist. EII could be how content becomes part of the information infrastructure, especially given the size of such resources.

Are we witnessing the dawn of a new world, where information flows aren't determined by data type, application silo or the schema of the squeakiest wheel? Where universal connectivity and information integration technologies respect all data resources — including legacy source — for what they are? And where service call centers know us better than we know ourselves?

Those of us who've seen enough silver bullets fly by know that perfection is never achieved. EII and other new technologies have many performance, reliability and security hurdles to overcome, especially when dealing with multiple data types. Still, times are changing; SOA, open XML standards and the business drivers that demand their success will not be denied. Traditional boundaries must be scrutinized. Formerly separate worlds are becoming one.

DOSSIER
Convergence of Structured and Unstructured Information

The Brief
»Organizations are under pressure to comply with regulations and better leverage all data resources. New integration, search and text mining technologies are creating unprecedented opportunities. It's time to reconsider outdated information flows set by rigid data type definitions.

Options
»Employ XML and other Web standards. Acceptance of XML can clarify how to develop metadata and other facilities that enable applications to work with heterogeneous data resources.
»Treat content as part of your "extended" information management strategy. Relational database providers want to manage your content; new technologies take a fresh approach; and existing content management vendors have expanded their vision.
»Test EII middleware. Enterprise information integration (EII) reduces data movement and can employ metadata to establish single views of heterogeneous data.
»Expand BI to include unstructured analysis and reporting. Search engines and text mining widen the range of options for gaining actionable insight.

Influencers
»Existing systems and skill sets hamstring IT innovation. To break with the past, business executives must champion cross-functional development.
»Convergent technologies are immature. EII and other middleware integration alternatives have yet to prove their performance, reliability and availability mettle.
»Service-oriented architecture (SOA) alters software buying plans. Emerging Web services continue to change the software landscape for integration projects.

Action Items
»Gain business support for integrating structured data and content. Compliance may demand it, but so do key business objectives.
»Identify pilot projects for evaluating new technology. Applications that demand broader customer insight could be ripe for innovation.