Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Weblogic

Weblogic: Article

Application Integration:Forms, Degrees,and Mechanisms

Application Integration:Forms, Degrees,and Mechanisms

In a March 2002 survey by Morgan Stanley, 225 CIOs listed extending their current IT investments through application integration as their number one priority. This is not surprising. Given the slow economy, many Fortune 500 companies are putting off large new packaged-application initiatives, and are looking to make do with what they've got. Why start a multimillion-dollar ERP project when half the company's users can't make use of the applications that are already installed (or sitting on the shelf)?

But when I talk to CIOs about their "application integration" needs in more detail, I don't get a consistent story. One of the reasons for this "impedance mismatch" is that there are really several different forms of application integration. This creates a huge risk because vendors and IT buyers are nodding in agreement about the need for application integration, but each has a different vision of what that means.

In a former life, I encountered the same problem as I managed the integration of software products acquired by a major software vendor. Let me offer you this more concise way to describe application integration, along with examples and the pros and cons of each approach. Using this nomenclature may help you avoid a misunderstanding that results in disappointment or project failure.

Forms, Degrees, and Mechanisms

There are four basic forms of application integration:

  • Presentation
  • Workflow
  • Data
  • Component
These integration forms are largely independent of each other and they address the layers in a traditional architecture stack. Each integration form can be taken to many degrees (based on ROI), which correspond to the complexity or depth of application integration. Integration mechanisms refer to the implementation technology used to accomplish the integration.

Presentation Integration
The presentation form of application integration has to do with having a consistent look and feel (also known as a skin) and common commands within an application and between applications. It also involves the personalization and customization of different application views, depending on which user is logged on.

Example Mechanism: Portlets
Portlets are user-interface components that end users see within a portal. Like a window on a PC or Mac, each portlet owns a portion of the browser or wireless device's screen where it displays views of an application (or content) and provides results. Portlets can be as simple as a message board or as complex as an order entry into an ERP application. Portlets can be designed, assembled, deployed, and managed using a variety of enterprise portal solutions. Some portal products have the ability to rapidly create portlets out of existing content or Web applications, and leverage a variety of technologies (e.g, JSP, servlets, .NET, DHTML).

Pros:

  • Portlets are low risk, and give quick, high bang for-the-buck results.
  • Portlets allow you to selectively expose different pieces of application functionality to employees, customers, partners, and suppliers without having to install software on each client (or future upgrades).
  • Portlets Web-enable existing applications and provides a way to surround them with other enhancing tools and technologies (like collaborative Web services).
Cons:
  • Doesn't add new functionality to (or replace) existing applications
  • Encapsulating an existing application that is already disliked and putting it within a portal may be like putting lipstick on a pig. It may be pretty, and pretty disappointing.
Workflow Integration Workflow integration enables organizations to create and manage Web-based business processes between employees, customers, and business partners.

Example Mechanism: Event/Condition/Action (ECA) Rules Engines
ECA rules engines automate business processes in response to events involving systems or collaborative processes within a group of users. The rules engine receives events that are sent to it as events occur inside a portal or enterprise application. The rules engine applies conditions to the events and if they fall within the condition parameters, the rules engine invokes an action. The rules represent business logic for deciding whether e-mails are sent, alarms are triggered, counters are advanced, or other software services are invoked. Examples of products that include business process automation tools are BEA WebLogic Integration, Savvion Business Manager, and Mongoose PortalStudio.

Pros:

  • Enable you to automate and streamline business processes that include interaction among people and systems in order to reduce costs and time delays.
  • Provide consistency, respond to exceptions, and take corrective action.
  • Routes tasks, documents, and information between people and systems.
Cons:
  • If not properly designed, workflow integration can be inflexible because it's a tightly coupled way to talk to existing systems.

Data Integration

Data integration is the most common form of application integration. Every business needs to aggregate, transform, and integrate data in order to reduce costs and inventories, increase revenue, and improve competitive positioning. There are a wide range of formats (e.g., XML), metadata, infrastructure, databases, and applications with which business objects and transactions interoperate.

Example Mechanism: J2EE CA Connectors
J2EE Connector Architecture (J2EE CA) is a nonproprietary standard for integrating applications with existing enterprise information systems. BEA, Insevo, Resource Adapters, TIBCO, and webMethods currently offer a variety of prepackaged J2EE CA-based connectors for leading ERP, CRM, and other corporate applications.

Pros:

  • Allows you to share data across and beyond your enterprise.
  • Eliminates the time, effort, and expense of a traditional EAI or B2B integration project.
  • Provides a real-time view of your business, allowing you to get up-to-the-minute information from all of your systems and applications.

Cons:

  • J2EE CA-based connectors aren't available for every corporate application.
  • Some connectors do not support bidirectional data transfer.
  • For highly complex data integration requirements (longer and more complex value chains), J2EE CA alone may not be sufficient.
Component Integration
Effective sharing and reuse of code is one of the holy grails of software engineering. Component integration has to do with developing fundamental building blocks (components and frameworks), making them readily available, and then leveraging them across enterprise systems in order to build robust and flexible systems with reduced development time and cost.

Example Mechanism: Web Services

Web services are self-contained, self-describing, component-based applications that can be published, located, and invoked across the Web. Web services perform discrete functions that can be simple requests or complex business processes. Standard technologies like XML, UDDI, SOAP, and WSDL are key parts of the Web services architecture. A Web service can be invoked from a portlet and can work with J2EE CA-based connectors (it's not a "one or the other" scenario). Products for developing Web services include AltoWeb, BEA WebLogic Workshop, and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET. Examples of XML-based Web services are Microsoft Passport and Sun Microsystems' Liberty.

Pros:

  • Reduces the cost of building new applications and shortens the time it takes to get them into production.
  • Increases interoperability between the various development environments so developers don't have to worry about which programming language or operating system they are using. Costs vary widely with each individual Web service. Commoditization will drive these costs down.
Cons:
  • Web services are currently at the top of the hype cycle. Some clients talk to me about adopting Web services and at the same time they ask me just what a Web service is. It's important to set the expectations here.
No single integration form is a silver bullet; different companies have different integration needs. In many companies, there are several formal IT initiatives going on in parallel involving multiple integration forms. The specific integration strategies adopted by a CIO depend on many factors. This includes how well existing applications already work together and figuring out what type of integration would provide most bang for the buck (ROI analysis).

One survey said the average Fortune 500 company has 62 major corporate applications. These are normally a combination of commercially available ERP, CRM, or SCM applications, legacy (old, outdated) applications, database systems, and custom-built (proprietary) applications developed in-house using the latest and greatest technologies.

In some cases, the best integration strategy for the short term is to reach for low-hanging fruit. That is, to implement a point-to-point data integration between two applications that requires little time and/or resources. But it is important to keep in mind that point-to-point integration between applications, if not done carefully, can actually exacerbate the overall application integration problem in the long term.

Conclusion
With the current economic slowdown, there is a great demand to do more with current IT investments by integrating existing applications. While there is a tremendous opportunity for those who can deliver application-integration solutions, there is significant risk of failure due to the misunderstanding of the functional requirements, implementation, and business value of a proposed application-integration solution. By defining application integration in terms of forms, degrees, and mechanisms, you can manage expectations, drive requirements, and deliver the most business value.

More Stories By Erick Rivas

Erick Rivas, president, CEO, and founder of Mongoose Technology, has
over 10 years of experience, including everything from software
architecture, design, and development to the management of sales,
finance, and distribution operations. Prior to founding Mongoose,
Erick was cofounder and VP of development at ProtoSoft, a leader in
UML-based analysis and design.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...