The Value of 'Simple' Integration at the User Level


Mashups hog the spotlight these days when it comes to integration at the presentation, or user, layer.


But they aren't the only tool in the tool shed, as David Linthicum pointed out in an ebizQ column Wednesday.


Linthicum admits he was a bit hesitant to even consider user layer integration as "real" integration:

"Addressing the user interface as a point of integration was a bit of leap for me. Indeed, many found it 'too primitive,' and thus should be excluded from the book. However, I left it in and I'm glad I did. Clearly, it's an effective form of interfacing with an application, and has proven to be effective and efficient as well."

The advantage to integration at the user interface is that you don't have to change the source data or the target applications, he continues.


Alas, there aren't a lot of products available for this type of integration. He mentions specifically Kapow and OpenSpan. Kapow lets you access information on Web pages. I should add it does bill itself as a mashup solution-so there's a touch of Web 2.0 there.


OpenSpan, on the other hand, is a more traditional software solution that provides desktop integration, addressing the problem of needing to open separate application to share data. In my 2007 interview with OpenSpan's CEO Francis Carden, he described OpenSpan:

"It's an environment where virtually any application can be integrated quickly and easily with another, providing a number of business benefits. For example, it enables business processes to be automated down to the user desktop level, where the most important process steps happen. It also allows existing legacy applications to be extended with new functionality, and it offers a way of abstracting the many application UIs (user interfaces) from the services they provide."

These types of solutions do differ from mashups and they certainly haven't nabbed the spotlight in the same way-but Linthicum thinks we'll see more of this type of integration in the near future:

"The need for this is clear. Many applications, Web sites, and packaged systems don't provide APIs or other ways to access the data. However, they always provide some sort of user interface and in many instances that's the only way to access the data for integration with other systems. This includes turning primitive and poorly structured screens of information, into more modern data service for data integration, or other purposes."