Smarter Integration? Bloor Analyst on What Tools Need to Do

Loraine Lawson
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7 Steps to Smarter Integration

Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.

Data integration vendors are no slouches when it comes to improving their tools. Judging by my inbox, that appears to be all they do.


Seriously, I can't imagine any other market does as many upgrades and releases as the data management set. At least twice a year - and I truly mean that as a minimum - vendors contact me about new improvements.


Heads up, ETL vendors: Before your next releases, you might want to check out what Philip Howard, data management research director at Bloor Research, has to say about simplifying integration.


Coming off a Netezza user conference, Howard writes that the buzz wasn't so much about Netezza as it was about the data integration software at the front end of the server.


"You can see their point," Howard writes in an IT-Director column. "Conversely, if you have 15 data sources, or 50, then you are dealing with a complex problem and hiding that complexity isn't necessarily easy. However, it did get me thinking about how much easier it could be."


Howard follows up with a rundown of ideas about how integration can be simpler, easier and all-around smarter. Analysts tend to write about pretty high-level, cutting-edge stuff. I found Howard's list refreshing because it's so practical and immediately relevant.


His suggestions:

  1. Add semantics, which don't have to be anything fancier than a database thesaurus, he writes. "It would be shipped with common synonyms pre-built but should be extensible so that users can define their own equivalences where necessary."
  2. Make sure the semantics are in a separate layer. Sure, you can use rules to handle all this synonym stuff, but Howard says rules creation should be reserved for the hard stuff. "By separating the thesaurus from rules management you can apply automated capabilities to the former where you cannot do so more broadly."
  3. Automate datatype conversions.
  4. Make reuse simpler. He specifically suggests a pop-up window to show you all the existing transformations that are already defined.
  5. Automate the whole process more. Why can't data integration tools include an optimizer that will figure out the best times for running queries or other tasks, he asks.


He also mentions that IBM is doing something that will make integration simpler but since it wasn't his idea, he isn't at liberty to share yet.


It makes sense to me. Of course, I'm not an actual data integration worker - just a technology journalist - so what do I know? Having shared this, I accept the risk that my inbox will soon be filled with pitches from PR people telling me exactly how they're already supporting all these suggestions either now or in their very next release.

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