Sunday, December 30, 2007

Conserns for large scale integration architectures

During last couple of days I was writing a report on some existing academic research papers as a part of my postgraduate studies. I selected to write on one of my favorite topics, 'Integration Architectures'. Following is an abstract (Introduction Chapter) of my report. You can access the full report here.

Most of the organizations today live by the slogan “Buy the best, build the rest”. Cost and risk of building from ground-up has made most organizations to consider buying commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. Effective integration of these purchased IT systems has become the main responsibility of IT managers today.
Unfortunately, it is not very common for an organization to find all the required systems to be homogeneous. Often they are from different vendors having diverse architectures and operating on different platforms. The schema of the information model can widely differ from one system to another. At all these complexities, a seamless integration and smooth business process flow is what expected from the IT infrastructure.
According to Pollock (2001), robust integration architecture should support both ‘Application Integration’ as well as ‘Information Integration’ against heterogeneity. ‘Application Integration’ is the process of linking different software systems to become a part of a larger system. This is the technical solution that decides the level of integration (data level, application level, transaction level, process level, or human level) and technology of communication. Therefore ‘Application Integration’ mainly deals with the transportation of data/objects/messages between heterogeneous systems.
On the other hand, ‘Information Integration’ deals with the meaning and semantics of the communication. The meta-data, business rules and domain schema of one party should be understood by the other party for the integration to be successful. Maximum exchange of meanings by transformation of one entire domain representation schema to another partially compatible domain representation schema is the challenge of ‘Information Integration’.
‘Application Integration’ aspects are primary requirements that need to be satisfied by any integration architecture. But that is still only half of the total picture. Most integration architectures fall in to the trap of focusing on much of these technical aspects but forget the quality aspects of ‘Information Integration’. Simple integration requirements may be full filled by architectures biased to one arena, but complex integrations definitely require lot of attention and balance of both these aspects.
Despite the number of integration technologies and patterns exists, the extent to which the above goal is realized is debatable. This report looks in to and evaluates two such integration architectures published in order to solve the integration puzzle. The selected two architectures present two dissimilar approaches towards enterprise integration. Main focus of the evaluation is to study the two architectural patterns to assess their support for ‘Application Integration’ and ‘Information Integration’ aspects as set by Pollock (2001) in his white paper.
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