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David vs. Goliath: Big Blue’s Composite Challenge

Anything goes in the feisty enterprise information integration (EII) space. In spite of the long-standing presence of a bona-fide industry powerhouse—IBM Corp.—and in spite of EII-related moves from brawny BI competitors Business Objects SA and Informatica Corp., the broader EII segment still teems with players.

Perhaps best positioned of these is Composite Software; so writes veteran analyst Wayne Kernochan, a senior IT advisor with consultancy Illuminata. Not only is Composite an EII survivor (it was plying the EII trade long before IBM introduced its first EII offerings, the erstwhile DB2 Information Integrator), it’s also Big Blue’s biggest competitive threat, Kernochan argues.

And that’s in spite of the fact that formidable data integration players Business Objects and Informatica (the latter of which is also a long-standing Composite partner) have since made moves into the EII space, too.

At its core, Composite EII is powered by that vendor’s eponymous Information Server. It features a development environment—Composite Studio—that lets users create composite views of data sources. Composite’s EII solution also features a Transaction Manager component that helps ensure data integrity by providing recovery and log management capabilities across data sources. Composite also provides Application Data Services that facilitate access to data stored in SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Siebel.

Organizations can deploy several instances of Composite Information Server, in parallel, and set up failover clusters (by means of an included system administration tool) to increase performance and availability.

And then there’s Composite’s SOA support, which is especially useful in EII scenarios. “SOA support is useful in an EII tool, because it allows users to combine the many-users-to-one-API simplification of programming of Web services with the one-API-to-many-data-stores simplification that EII offers,” Kernochan argues. “Composite Software’s solution includes a Web service provider [SOAP] interface at the front end, and Web service consumer interfaces to underlying data sources at the back end, as well as SQL interfaces.”

Any enterprise-class EII solution must overcome a range of problems, Kernochan says, including transactional bottlenecks, security, poor performance for large data sets, and updating or refreshing.

Composite EII, for its part, can support massively parallel deployments—to help address transactional bottlenecks and other performance issues—and boasts cross-database access control and single-sign on capabilities, on the security tip. It also supports data-copy updates and synchronization.

Add it all up, Kernochan says, and you’ve got an enterprise-class application that delivers on EII’s promise of lightweight, transparent access to federated data sources. “Where it really shines, however, is in making enterprise applications part of the information mix. Getting at a product record inside Peoplesoft or Siebel is not easy; in order to issue a query on an application, the EII tool needs to figure out how to translate from the application’s interface to the underlying data,” Kernochan explains. “Composite Software’s trick is to know the ins and outs of each application well enough so that the user can consistently fire off a SQL query at SAP and get a meaningful answer.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at daedalus@percipient-analytics.com.

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