Sunday, 1 June 2008

Enterprise Information Integration

Moving on from last week’s blog about the different hardware manufacturers whose boxes you’d find in a data centre, this week I’d like to look at the issue of Enterprise Information Integration (EII).

The problem, as you’re probably only too well aware, is that although there are now standards in computing, there are an awful lot of them! Which still means that there is no easy way of integrating data from an IMS database with a transaction running from a Unix box or browser running on a PC – or almost any other combination of two different things! Even mainframes aren’t a single homogenous entity. You have a choice of z/VSE or z/OS (or z/VM and running multiple copies of the other two). With z/OS you can complicate things by running z/Linux as well. And even if you have just z/OS, your data could be in DB2, IMS DB, VSAM files, or a lot of other standard, but incompatible, formats.

Plus, in addition to mainframes, there are lots of other so-called enterprise platforms out there – ones that dyed-in-the-wool mainframers would think of as mid-range machines. Of course, these servers are running as much computing power as perhaps a 10-year-old mainframe could. Your mobile phone probably has the computing power of a 25-year-old mainframe!!

The challenge for EII is to make available this enterprise data, with all its myriad of formats, so it looks like it’s one big easily and quickly accessible database. And it has to do this in a way that doesn’t compromise the security or the integrity of the data. In addition, each type of file probably has its own proprietary storage method, and may very well have its own indexing and data access method.

As I mentioned earlier, there are standardized access methods for different data types. These APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) include ADO.NET, JDBC, ODBC, and OLE DB. Microsoft’s ADO.NET is a new version of its ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) technology. It’s a set of software components providing access to data and data services and is included with the Microsoft .NET Framework. It’s a way to access relational databases. Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) is a Java API for accessing relational databases. Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) provides a procedural API for using SQL queries to access data. Object Linking and Embedding, Database is a Microsoft API for accessing different types of data. It was meant to supersede ODBC by also supporting data types that don’t use SQL.

In addition to nicely-defined relational database interfaces, it’s important to be able to access data from the now ubiquitous XML files as well as the millions of other types, including the now quite common vCards, etc, etc.

Once an EII system is implemented, an organization could start to save money by using it for application development, data migration, ad hoc reporting, Web enabling their existing applications, and enhancing security, for example. The hard part is finding a product that is affordable, particularly for medium and small enterprises, and that will help them to achieve these benefits. I’d be interested to hear from organizations that had implemented such a system and find out exactly what they used and how they’d rate it.

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