SOA’s ‘Heterogeneous Jungle’ Demands Data Integration

Navigating a jungle can be a hair-raising experience and, when it comes to service-oriented architectures, so can the app integration process for developers. But just like any safari has a guide, solutions are out there that guide through the uncharted territory.

“Everyone dealing with the modern has to deal with the old legacy apps and it’s hitting them like a freight train,” said Mike Hoskins, chief technical officer, Pervasive Software. “They [developers] cannot live in the old world of integration.”

According to Hoskins, software vendors are just beginning to delve into the data integration challenges associated with legacy and SOA-based apps, while they use the approach to integrate higher-level services with other lower-level functions more efficiently. He calls the process “a nightmare, a jungle of heterogeneous systems.”

With SOA, software companies want disparate systems to coexist, they want to migrate data from those systems, and they want to plug that data into XML, producing real-time interfaces with both front and back end responses for Web services. But when enterprises still deal with antiquated legacy apps, the developer is left with the challenge of locating a solution to merge “old school” technology with modern processes.

“The early traction in SOA is helping companies build open interfaces more quickly,” says Hoskins. “But an app developer needs something small, agile, embeddable, quick and lightweight.”

Embeddable integration is the paramount focus at Austin, Texas-based Pervasive, which offers various integration tools and services, including one designed for the SOA/legacy app challenge developers face today. After the company acquired Data Junction in December 2003, a re-branded tool was spawned–the Pervasive Data Integrator (PDI).

IT consulting and management company, CGI-AMS, is all too familiar with that development challenge. The group embarked on a search for a data integration tool that would enable the company to streamline data for the plethora of legacy databases used in Los Angeles County. CGI-AMS needed integration to deploy its Advantage 3 Financial Management solution, a service that automates workflow (like budgeting and HR management) through Web-based access. Now LA County processes data from more than 40 departments, handling an average of 22,500 docs each night.

Dave Delgado, vice president, CGI-AMS says PDI was speedy and easy to deploy. “It will continue to help Los Angeles County realize substantial time savings during daily processing using the functionality of multithread engines.”

The PDI extracts, transforms and loads data from multiple platforms, on either a continuous, event-driven or scheduled cycle. It saves and stores all design metadata in an open XML-based repository, enabling interchange and reuse. And the solution provides app-level connectivity that speeds development.

Reps at CGI-AMS say they were looking for an integration solution with many customizable options, one that could support multiple platforms (such as Windows and UNIX) and one that maximized developers’ time. Cost and vendor responsiveness were other factors in their decision. Those in the know expect more enterprises to follow suit with such solutions.

While SOA continues to make big strides, demand for app integration will continue to spike, and more developers will have to sift through data integration solutions that make sense for their org. And that search for a solution is seldom easy.

“Integration is one of the age-old problems of computing, and we’ve been in the middle of it for 20 years,” Hoskins said. “In the same way John Donne said ‘no man is an island,’ no app can be an island.”

About the Author

Jason Turcotte is an assistant editor at Application Development Trends. He can be reached at [email protected].