Why and How to Consolidate Onto One Data Integration Tool

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Strategic Integration: 10 Business-Building Tips

Ten ways that companies can use integration and integration-related strategies to build business.

You know what bugs me? Those diagrams that vendors use to show how messy IT systems are, particularly when it comes to integration. And here's why they bother me-because by the end of the presentation, you know there's going to be a lovely box diagram making it look all pretty and neat, thanks to their solution.


The problem is, you really can make those things look as complex, as abstract or as outright misleading as you want. Just because you draw a picture of it doesn't make it so.


For years, I've wondered if I was the only one rolling my eyes at these diagrams. Now I know: I'm not. Calla Knopman, an IT architect and data warehousing/integration consultant, writes in a recent, excellent Enterprise Data Journal article that vendors promise to simplify the integration spaghetti mess captured in the first diagram-but if you revisit what actually happens, you'll usually find you're left with a big, heaping plate of spaghetti.

At the end of these projects, we can revisit the spaghetti diagram and ask the question, Have the three vendors rid the system of some of the congestion? The answer, of course is, 'No.' In the end, they have just complicated the overall business system even further.

That's because they're often adding tools for various reasons, rather than subtracting them, she contends. This is particularly the case when it comes to data integration tools-specifically, ETL (extract, transform and load), EAI (enterprise application integration), and CDC (change data capture) or EDR (enterprise data replication) tools, she writes.


And with each tool you add, you've not just added to the complexity of your IT architecture, but you've added to your hardware, training, licensing and upkeep costs. Sometimes, she writes, her clients are even running multiple versions of the same data integration tool!


She makes a strong argument for tool consolidation and shifting to a data services approach-hence the title, "Data Integration As An Enterprise Service." She even provides a shopping list of features you'll need, including:

  • SOA compliance
  • Support for Web services
  • Ability to process in batch to 0 latency frequencies
  • ETL, EAI and EDR services
  • Plug-and-play capabilities
  • Metadata enrichment
  • Support for both real-time and batch
  • Configuration management


This article really does have something for everyone. Business leaders will appreciate her succinct explanation of what each type of integration tool does and the explanation of why it's a good idea to simplify onto one tool. IT leaders will appreciate that she points out that these tools often slip in without IT's approval and with other solutions, often associated with a vendor's OEM (original equipment manufacturer) contract. And everybody will appreciate that she explains how tool consolidation can help you save money. She even explains how you can use better server utilization as the cornerstone of a business case.


As for me, she even confirmed my suspicion that those diagrams aren't all they are cracked up to be.