24 June 2002 Analysts at Forrester Research have urged clients to invest in integration server software. In a recent report, Forrester analyst Chris Dial claimed that, despite the current economic slowdown, now is a good time to buy an integration server – which manages complex interactions between disparate computing systems – for three key reasons.
First, collaborative commerce is increasing the pressure on companies to build machine-to-machine connections with key trading partners, “but working with partners means that firms must be able to assemble data from many different applications and put it in the right format before sending it over the wall,” said Dial. Equally, they must organise their own systems to receive and process data that partners send to them.
Second, web services are “breaking the connectivity price barrier”. Until recently, companies were forced to buy proprietary adaptors from integration server suppliers or build their own. “But tool kits from vendors like Cape Clear Software and Bowstreet, and SOAP [simple object access protocol] adapters from vendors like Actional make it cheaper for firms to access applications. They pay only once to expose data and logic in an application, rather than building or buying custom adapters each time they need connections,” said Dial.
Third, most integration server products have moved beyond message brokering to embrace process management. “Even vendors whose products have primarily been message hubs, like Tibco and WebMethods, have bolted on features so [customers] can model processes and direct interactions with partners,” said Dial.
Forrester has recently upgraded its Integration Server TechRankings, a service that assesses functions and features of leading integration products. “No single vendor dominated the evaluation”, reported Dial.
Vitria offers strong process modelling and analytics, while SeeBeyond’s product is a good fit for companies “whose internal programmers are integrating applications with custom adapters and building lightweight connections to partners”.
Microsoft’s BizTalk Server is an “easy-to-use, low-cost product” for integration, which lacks some advanced features such as human workflow, but which can be extended with Visual Studio .Net development suite, while WebMethods’ product will appeal to organisations that need to integrate a large number of applications and partners but that only require simple processes and connections.