Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Characteristics of Agile Integration Software

One of my objectives in starting this blog is to see what I can do to overcome the pervasive mindset, with respect to integration in general, that conjures up a heavy, limited framework that can only actually work with a huge amount of custom coding. It is only by stepping outside that box that we can imagine the next generation of integration software.

What should one look for in an integration product that indicates that it will actually be able to generate an agile environment? Here are a few of my thoughts.

  • First, it must be "off the shelf" or "out of box" or downloadable, whatever term you like. That means that you can install it in just a few minutes. If it takes a week or months to install, you are definitely not going to have an agile environment!
  • It must require little or no training to get started building connectivity. A data analyst should be able to design and build data mapping and transfers. This means the people who know what the result really needs to be can actually do the implementation.

  • You must be able to design, develop, test, and deploy from within a single environment. No separate effort to generate and assemble a run-time components.
  • It must support accessing, transforming, and aligning data from multiple sources live without staging in a database or interim store. Real time data access and availability is a critical aspect of an agile enterprise. Think what work it takes and what value is lost when the data must be staged before it is transferred to wherever it is going.
  • It must be end-to-end metadata driven.
  • If there is any programming required, it should be doable from within the same environment, and the code saved and versioned as part of the metadata.
  • The transformation engine should be able to operate on data in any application's native format as opposed to having to step through a central view such as XML. How can you possibly get high performance when your integration must run through multiple steps.
  • If you are looking for agility at an Enterprise level, the product must be scalable across clusters and extensible so that it becomes an environment tailored with all the special requirement you have that are needed over and over.

    I guess that's plenty for now. Over time, I imagine I'll discuss most of these points in more detail, and how they are present in our Enterprise Enabler agile integration software.

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