Monday, August 26, 2013

Convergence is, at Best, Asymptotic

No, not asymptomatic. Asymptotic. “Convergence” is a term we hear these days in IT. The convergence of Data Integration, in particular, is the one I care about. In the analysts’ vernacular, converged integration seems to mean a product, company, or platform that handles all modes of data integration – ETL, EAI, ESB, DV et al.

By definition, “convergence” means a coming together, which clearly implies the parts started from other places and came voluntarily or were coerced into coming together. Just looking at history, companies like IBM, Oracle, and Informatica absorbed outside companies and products to nominally have a product suite with all the modes. Here’s how it works: Need ETL? Buy Ascential, rename it, give it a massage with hot towels, then say, “Voilà! Voilà! Voilà!” and your product now covers ETL, too! Or, take a Data Virtualization product, write a bunch of code, and again, “Voilà!” and your product covers ETL, too.

With all due respect to the analysts, the word convergence may describe the reality of most companies incorporating more and more integration modes, but keep in mind though, that in mathematics convergence means getting closer and closer but never quite getting there: asymptotic [translation: Close, but no cigar!].

I am certain that the analysts do not mean Convergence in the mathematical sense. The term is quite useful for establishing a powerful vision of dramatically reduced time-to-value, clean architectures, flexible integration patterns, and highly streamlined change management and maintenance over time.

If you read my last blog you probably recognize that there is a significant difference with Enterprise Enabler®. It was designed from the ground up with a powerful core that handles all the common functionality of the range of modes, with implicit data federation across disparate sources (databases, electronic instruments, spreadsheets, data warehouses, ERP systems, cloud services and so on). 

 That core is the common root of all data integration modes, a bit like the trunk of a tree that has any number of branches and leaves, instead of trying to converge a bunch of branches by stuffing them all in an opaque vase and pretending like they have a single trunk. That spells trouble, and doesn't even come close to asymptotic. Probably not asymptomatic, either. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

On-Demand vs. Event-Driven. Who Cares?

Let’s say I’m an integration. (Don't laugh!) What is this “integration”  that I actually am? Well, I have been configured for a specific purpose or set of uses, and I know exactly how to access each source, not just the class of source, like SAP, web service, Oracle database, or Excel spreadsheet, for example, but I know where each resides, what its security access is, and what subset of information is of interest for this purpose. I also know what data to filter out from each, what validation needs to be done as I grab the data, and how to make whatever multiple sources are involved meaningful together.

I cross-reference key fields, change units of measure, align formats, and apply functions to aggregate, analyze, or otherwise manipulate the data so it makes sense for this set of uses. And if I’m passed a query along the way, I definitely know how to deal with providing a subset from the domain I’m designed for.   I’m pretty smart, don’t you think? Not to mention self-centered. I’m an Active Integration from Enterprise Enabler® that has been configured in fifteen minutes.

What do I care how I get initiated, or by whom? Certainly not me! I’m just standing by the phone waiting for a call. In the end, whatever terminology you use, I’m the core of “Convergence” of integration modes. Just tell me, and I’ll do the heavy-lifting of an ETL, physically moving data from several heres to a there, or serve data up virtually as a data set through a web service. Put me on a schedule or maybe have me do my integration whenever the ice cream truck comes. (That’s my favorite kind of event to respond to!).  So you see that even if it’s a user refreshing a browser page, or querying a specific subset of data, it’s all the same to me.

Sometimes I inadvertently find myself in the middle of a brawl of my counterparts from other worlds, who only know one way of operating. You know, ETL, EAI, SOA, or Data Virtualization. They think they’re the best at what they do, which is always only one of those. They have to contort themselves to the point of pain in order to play in more than one arena.  I, on the other hand, am so flexible I can do any of the above and touch my toes (with and ice cream cone in my hand) without grunting. If it starts to drip, I just cache it somewhere. And by the way, I'll challenge my counterparts to their specialty any day!

It’s true, though, that sometimes I have my own internal existential contemplation, wondering if I really exist. All my counterparts call me names, saying I’m nothing but a bunch of metadata.  L  Nevertheless, I am the Master that can be used anywhere in any mode, maintaining standardization and agility at the same time. It’s a bit like yoga.