The Rise of Intelligent Middleware

Michael Vizard

The only time data has any real value is when it is compared with other data. Unfortunately, the data we usually need to compare is locked up in disparate applications. Through the adoption of various Web services and service-oriented architecture standards, however, we have made it easier to share data across enterprise applications.

But the process of integrating that data has not only been tedious, it still largely depends on processing the data within one application environment or another. Now there is a new approach from Informatica in which the SQL requests associated with integrating data are performed in transit by the middleware.

That has several interesting implications. First of all, it reduces the role of the enterprise application to being a place that stores and presents data. It also de-emphasizes the strategic role of the traditional SQL database, which might soon resume its traditional role of being the software that manages access to data storage. The high-value processing in which the data is actually compared to derive some real business value is moving to the middleware.

Companies such as Informatica say this is desirable because if they can process SQL requests in transit, the speed at which various business intelligence processes can be delivered will be that much faster. As companies increasingly discover that it is in comparing of data, versus the storing and processing of it, that adds value to the business process, the need to deliver that information faster will dramatically increase.

Businesses are making strategic decisions faster than ever. These decisions might not be taking place in real time, but they are taking place in a matter of minutes. To facilitate that, business executives want direct access to the most current and relevant data, which means not waiting for some data warehouse to be updated every 24 hours. They want access to production data as much as possible.

The IT organization that best provides that capability positions its company to be not only be more responsive to the business of the day, but also to serve the customer better. The IT organization that is oblivious to these changing business dynamics will soon find itself being asked why the company as a whole seems to be outmaneuvered at almost every turn because of a lack of relevant information.

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