Mr Baseline’s EAI Crash Course – Part I

In the unlikely event that someone outside the circle of folks already familiar with the work we do at Zystems should find their way to this blog, I will spend the next couple of posts outlining our take on EAI.

Introduction

Integrating IT systems has traditionally been a complex and arduous task, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Using sound methodology when tackling systems integration can substantially alleviate the complexity and avoid some of the pitfalls involved. This series of posts will outline some of the key features of such a methodology. It will also describes the Baseline methodology that enables an organization to get started with a fully implemented integration platform in 2-3 weeks.

The Problem

spaghettiIf you’ve ever tried to get more than a few IT systems to communicate with each other, you’re familiar with all the problems involved. Over time, you end up with an almost organic web of interdependencies. Obscure, poorly documented point-to-point connections (or interfaces), involving a bewildering collection of formats, protocols, and technologies, make up an infrastructure that only the most courageous dare tamper with.

One of the reasons for this is that most of the integration work has been done as part of the various projects dealing with developing and implementing the systems being integrated. This way, no coherent view on system integration exists. Each interface will be designed and implemented from scratch and choice of methods and technology will be entirely up to the people involved in the different projects.

As more and more demand is placed on the IT infrastructure to be flexible and responsive to new business demands (agile is a popular buzzword for this), the spaghetti approach becomes less and less satisfying.

Towards a Solution

hub and spokeSome years back, a way of dealing with this problem emerged in the shape of an architectural mode called Hub and Spoke. This architecture was built around the notion of having one central piece of software (the Hub) deal with all the complexities of inter-system communication. A new class of software, called Message Brokers, entered the stage, providing the technology to build those hubs.

Deploying this kind of middleware is, in itself, not a guaranteed way to integration nirvana. Although you now have a bunch of software components that can help you connect your systems with each other, nothing stops you from keeping the point-to-point mind-set, and you may end up creating a somewhat more coherent and smaller bowl of spaghetti. It will still lack the consistency that is required if you want control and transparency.

In the next post…

…I’ll introduce our view of the ESB and what you should expect from an EAI methodology.

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