Integration technologies continue to cause customer confusion, new report finds
London June 14, 2005 Integration has, for many years, been high on the agenda of IT professionals. According to the European IT research and advisory organization Butler Group it is also a resource glutton, which, if left uncontrolled, will eventually consume organizations to the point where they can no longer operate effectively.
To make matters worse, "Integration Technologies" a new report published by Butler, finds that the very models being promoted to ensure less complexity, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), enterprise service bus (ESB) and the bringing of host systems into modern operating paradigms, are creating complexities and confusion of their own.
"Organizations need to understand the advantages that integration technologies can bring to their business, and understand which technologies best match their specific needs," advised Michael Thompson, principal research analyst with Butler Group and author of the report.
Enterprises Lack Understanding of What Integration Apps Are in Use, What Function They Perform
One example of this, according to Thompson, is when the issue of host systems enters into the picture. Many organizations have formed the backbone of the transactional systems, and the thought of attempting to integrate them into a larger framework always raises concerns regarding future operability.
According to the report, even when there is a good understanding of what applications are in use, it is not always known exactly the function they really perform, as the application itself may have moved on significantly from any documentation that may exist.
Butler Group said that typical benefits of integration from a business impact perspective include the elimination of data re-entry and errors, increased operational efficiency and decreased latency through the creation and automation of services that adequately support business processes, improved supply chain performance through increased visibility, improved compliance with service-level agreements (SLAs), improved coordination across various revenue channels, improved up-sell and cross-sell opportunities through a single customer view, and reduced inventory stock-outs and improved product mix.
Examples of technical benefits in the report that have been claimed by customers of integration providers include reduction in number of interfaces required (for example, a 40 to 50 percent reduction); reduction in interface development costs (these appear to be typically 25 to 50 percent for many of the ESB-type solutions); reduction in interface maintenance costs (50 to 75 percent savings); reduction of 50 percent in costs associated with changes to customized displays; 30 percent reduction in cost of changing underlying applications, and a reduction in application instances due to removing redundant instances across different business units (33 to 50 percent savings).*
"Creating an integration strategy based on process as the primary driver will allow organizations to better understand the benefits of spending money on integration," said Thompson. "For those more forward-looking organizations, this cost element becomes subservient to the fact that the organization will be future-proofed both in terms of technology advancements and organization change."
SOA, ESB and Web Services: How All the Pieces Fit Together
The idea of a service-oriented architecture, which forms the infrastructure upon which defined, self-contained and non-reliant functional components can be stored, identified, created, deployed and consumed, is gaining ground, according to Thompson.
However, the report also shows that SOA is often perceived by organizations as simply part of implementing Web services a natural extension to the Web service model. Butler Group commented that this is too narrow a view, and the report advises organizations to consider SOA, whether or not they intend to provide or consume Web services.