How Does Integration Need to Change?

Loraine Lawson
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What does open source bring to integration? A wider range of pre-created integrations, better agility, less complexity - and, oh yeah, all at a cheaper cost, contends Rob Davies, CTO of FuseSource.


Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions recently interviewed Davies and FuseSource's VP of Marketing Debbie Moynihan for a podcast. FuseSource offers an ESB based on Apache ServiceMix and a mediation router based on Apache Camel, as well as an open-source message broker and services framework. You can download the podcast or read the full transcript. If you're short on time, several sites offer an edited version, inexplicably titled "The Great IT Integrators." I read TechNewsWorld's version.


It's an intriguing conversation that talks a lot about how integration as a whole is changing for organizations. Gone are the days when you added an application and then started planning the integration as an afterthought. Organizations need integration to happen much faster now, because there's such a diverse ecosystem to support, from cloud and SaaS offerings to mobile computing. Integration now needs to be something that's planned, yet flexible and fast.


Organizations also need people outside of IT to be able to handle that integration work, according to Moynihan, which is why FuseSource released in April a new drag-and-drop GUI tool for Camel that simplifies integration for the non-developers.


Moynihan and Davies are laser-focused on how open source - and, of course, FuseSource in particular - can provide the integration architecture needed for the modern enterprise. Davies contends we're at a crossroads with integration solutions, and that over time, organizations will "realize that they need the flexibility and the ability to change what they're doing very quickly." And in his mind, that means deploying open-source solutions.


He certainly makes a good case for it. But honestly, I found Gardner's questions most interesting in this discussion.


Reading Gardner, you get a great overview of the challenges organizations face in the very near future and why they'll need to modernize their approach to integration and managing integration. For instance, in the introduction, he points out companies need a different breed of integration solutions to connect with the cloud, then he asks:

Once these newer breeds of integrations are set up, can the old, brittle management and upkeep of them suffice - or will agility and rapid upgrades and innovations require new tools to make integration a lifecycle function with ongoing management and more automated governance?

Darn good question.


Admittedly, a few of the questions are gimmes for the FuseSource folks - hey, we all do that. It gives them an opportunity to better explain their point and what their product does. But along the way, he makes several excellent points and raises a few questions that I think are worth deeper discussion by anyone serious about creating an agile IT infrastructure:

  • Do we need to rethink integration?
  • We no longer have the luxury of taking three to five years to bring in and integrate applications.
  • Integration needs to be a part of process innovation - and not relying on the "beard-and-sneaker guys" (his words, not mine), whose hand-coding can become a bottleneck. In other words, we need to "elevate" integration "out to a wider group of individuals," says Gardner.
  • How do you architect for the multiple domains of SaaS, cloud, mobile, on-premise, private clouds and so forth?


Davies contends you can only address those problems with an open-source solution:

You can only really get that speed of innovation to keep up with the way the environment is changing by choosing open source, because the open-source community itself is driving the projects to keep up with the demands. So, you have to try to move outside of a traditional release cycle that you would get from a traditional product company. You don't really have any other alternatives, if you want to keep up, than to look at open-source projects, the Apache ones in particular.

Of course, those are fightin' words - it's always fightin' words when you pit open source so, well, openly against proprietary solutions. I can't speak to whether he's right or wrong, though I can certainly hear my email pinging even as I type.


But what I think is most important here isn't whether open source offers a better solution or not, but to first address Gardner's big picture question: How does integration need to change to support this brave new cloud/mobile/on-premise world? Gardner certainly seems to see open source as a crucial piece of the puzzle - and Davies certainly does. But what else is needed to "future-proof" integration, as Davies puts it?


It's a question not just for analysts, but for anyone serious about ensuring IT is ready to support the coming changes to the application infrastructure.

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