The Value of 'Simple' Integration at the User Level

Loraine Lawson

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."

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 20, 2008 1:04 PM Francis Carden Francis Carden  says:
Actually, most of our customers use OpenSpan for 'complex' integration. On average customers integrate 8-10 desktop applications to automate manual workflows but we actually have enterprises who have integrated as many as 40! The desktop has got so complex. A recent survey in Financial Services says that business expects their users to be running more apps on their desktops in 2009, not less! The need for this approach is growing, not shrinking.I liken it very clearly to what happened to mainframe applications. Everyone thought they'd replace the entire business logic with client/Server and new GUI's (then Web). Now many services available today are still integrating with the mainframe UI's of 20 years ago! It just works.OpenSpan released a version that enables any desktop app to move to a server (running headless, in virtual machines) and serve up their UI's and business logic to web services in the mid-tier (or through new Mash-ups). It worked for 20 years for the mainframe. It'll work for everything else too.. IMHO. Reply

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