Friday, November 2, 2012

Tech Debt Out-of-the-Box ... "And all the Ills of Integration-kind were Unleashed"

We often talk about having cool capabilities “out of the box,” which is a good thing. That means that you don’t have to do anything but a quick install and you can start using the feature. That is, unless you are talking about Legacy Integration Software (LIS), in which case, when you first “opened the box,” it began spewing Tech Debt before anything else happened. All the ills of integration-kind were unleashed. Years later, you are still prisoner to your Pandora’s Box.

You launch a new project using Legacy Integration Software. First open Pandora’s Box:
        1. Install new instance and all related tools
        2. Apply 64 patches; you can implement the work-arounds in a few months when you start actually developing the integrations.
        3. Send team to a few weeks of Legacy Integration University
        4. Better hire a few consultants, too.
Tech Debt abounds already!

Below is an actual post on a recent Integration Consortium’s LinkedIn Group discussion. The topic has to do with updating customer communications to a standard XML format as opposed to legacy file ftps. The Legacy Integration Software limits the options. Adding XML to the mix means that the LIS needs additional work.

"We already have in house Informatica footprint. So we plan to use that for generating all outbound files. Here is the concern.
We have two options for generating these files.
1) DB -> Informatica -> Standard XML -> XSLT -> Custom File
2) DB -> Informatica -> Custom File
First option provides the benefit of standardization/canonical information model, long term migration path of custom files to standardized xml, and less development since only one Informatica process is required and all custom format are through XSLT.
Problem we see with this approach is the potential performance issue; outbound XML file size in some cases is more than 1GB due to XML tags while the corresponding custom file is a 50MB or so. Second issue is an additional hop that makes support/troubleshooting activities a little harder i.e. where/why a file generation process failed."

No one should have to think about these things. Agile Integration Software (AIS) like Stone Bond’s Enterprise Enabler would require only a single process for this solution. The differences in the mapping and destination format required would be handled by passing the customer ID, which determines either which map to run or passes variables directly into the transformation engine at run-time to modify the actions. The same process can alternatively step through a standard XML, although the value of doing that escapes me. Performance would not be an issue, and troubleshooting through the streamlined solution is simplified. Stone Bond customers implement such B2B transactions using DBAs as opposed to specially-skilled programmers.

Why, in the twenty-first century, do you have to jump through hoops to get data wherever you want it whenever you want it? Here we are, musing over the “leading edge” Big Data hype and allocating millions of dollars for pilot projects next year, when we can’t even get clean, quick, agile data exchange with our customers and business partners. Does that make sense? I don’t think so. Isn’t it time to embrace twenty-first century technology and start eliminating the Tech Debt you have accumulated instead of continuing on a path that parallels the national debt?

Agile Integration is easy to try out. You do owe it to your shareholders.

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