Monday, 19 November 2012

5+ garages to service your car? Sure

[Image by Expressive]

After a very lively conversation with Holger Müller I decided on "posting it up" - Twitter is fine for conversations but sometimes the 140-char limit just doesn't cut it.
We discussed Integration, within enterprises. Along the analogy of a garage, we found out that every enterprise has more than a few garages "to serve their car" - meaning integrating their applications

Yes that can be true, but it doesn't need to be - some of the work I do involves "Integration rationalisation", meaning bringing back the number of Integration solutions to -preferably- one

Holger told me what is happening, and has been happening, in his world - and I don't disagree with his facts. I just think that there are far, far better ways of using your time and money. "Free Integration Tools" you get with purchasing an application or ERP module don't always usually mean that they are

Imagine you need to drive to garage A for your tyres, B for your regular service, C for your oil-check, D for replacing a light bulb, and E to fix your stereo? Would you love that? It's a fairly common situation in large enterprises where Integration happens as an afterthought, and bottom-up

Usually these integration installations are clubbed together in a point-to-point tech fest, using it as a goal rather than a means. Central logging and monitoring, as well as a simple and usable canonical model usually lack. Messages make it across without envelopes, creating a hard-coupled environment. Documentation usually starts at a Process Start Architecture or very High Level Design, to be followed up (when lucky) by some Global Functional Design.
After that, a big gaping void is what remains. Maybe in the very end you'll find some outdated WSDL's and XSD's scattered over the place - the ruins of a $$$ consuming IT battleground

Not all of these start out or end up like that. If you use the "free" PI you get with SAP, you'll probably give that some thought before you implement it. Then you might get SuccessFactors on board as well, and use their integration solution. Maybe you have some CRM as well, and before you know it, you'll be using half a dozen lightweight integration "solutions" that just don't cut it at all - even seasoned SAP Pi developers state that it's okay to map some XML, but as soon as it gets even a little bit complex, Java is the way to go. Not to mention the P-word of course: Performance. SAP PI architectures sometimes include 7 layers or more, and a web-call to the back-end might take a minute that way

At long-term or even mid-term, what would all that cost? Handcraft together all those separate solutions, learn to master each of them at sufficient scale in order to be able to maintain them, for let's be honest: Integration is a means, not a goal, and a dynamical beast within an A2A (application to application, connecting your internal applications and systems) scenario

With the benefit of hindsight, what would you do? Just not use any of these half-hearted fixes, but just get a serious Integration Broker on board, like TIBCO, WebMethods, Axway, BizTalk, Pervasive?
So many of those out there, and they're all specialists at what they do: full-fledge integration of any-to-any, at Enterprise scale

Or would you get that "free" service left and right, and visit a couple of garages to service your one single car? If you do the math, you'll not only see that using proper tools is far more efficient in the long run, but even in the very, very short one

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