Happy Returns from app integration: Q&A Kathy Quirk, Nucleus Research

Kathy Quirk is research manager for Nucleus Research in Wellesley, Mass., a provider of ROI-focused research and advisory services. ADT recently spoke with her about the costs and paybacks from enterprise application integration.

Q: How can enterprises get the best bang for their bucks in their application integration projects?

A: There are a couple of things we recommend. First, take a step back, take a look at what applications you need to connect, what data you need to extract from those systems. Where does the data need to go in your organization and outside your organization to improve business operations? And then, map out all the connections and points that you want the integration product to facilitate. And determine all the data delivery points. Once you’ve established the internal landscape and projections for your future needs, then you can start looking for products. Start looking at different prices and different costs, not only for buying the software itself, but also what it’s going to cost you to get it up and running, how you’re going to be able to support it on an ongoing basis, and what sort of training the developers might need. Then, take a look at what’s available and make the best price and product decisions that make sense to you.

Q: Nucleus sees changes in the application integration market, notably the entry of infrastructure vendors, such as IBM, BEA and Microsoft, to go along with the more established specialty vendors, namely TIBCO and webMethods. What does this change in the market mean for buyers?

A: Much better pricing, incredibly competitive markets, and everyone wants to stake a bigger claim on the market. So, buyers have a great deal of flexibility to take advantage of in terms of pricing and negotiating with the vendors to get a very attractive price and perhaps to get some free things thrown in there to help with consulting, etc. Right now, everyone wants to be your friend. And that’s a good situation for the buyer to be in.

Q: What do you foresee happening in this market in, say, the next year or two?

A: I think there’s going to be additional consolidation. You’re going to see, and we’re already seeing that, some suites are broadening, especially in BEA’s case, going from the application server and moving out to include integration and development tools, putting together a very attractive, unifying platform. We have spoken to many customers who are doing pretty well in terms of saving on development costs, and finding the tools pretty easy to use. Also, TIBCO and webMethods are kind of branching out from their heritage with the integration platform and trying to move down into more affordable price points to attract additional customers. And everybody is branching out in terms of web services as well.

Q: Are there any other vendors whose products could make future dents in this market?

A: One vendor whose product is doing very well is CapeClear Software. It has easy-to-use tools, pretty attractive pricing and a pretty good track record. A lot of companies have a good deal of success with it.

Q: Nucleus notes that an enterprise application strategy requires a lot of upfront questions such as asking how end users would be affected. What are the key questions IT needs to ask to get a clear picture of the strategy?

A: There has to be a good give and take between IT and the business users to find out more about business processes, how things happen for the business users: What data sources they need to get to, also to kind of probe them to see if there are additional combinations of different data sources that can be combined with a nice-looking front end that would really help somebody get their tasks done better.


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