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Efficiencies can be gained at the intersection of middleware and data integration

Enterprise applications integration, or middleware, and data integration are often thought of as separate disciplines, but they have commonalities that organizations can exploit.

LOS ANGELES -- The application development team has its job, and the data integration team has its job, and never the two shall meet. Or at least that's how it is at most organizations. But it shouldn't be.

With better communication between the groups, significant efficiencies in data integration and applications messaging, or middleware, can be gained, said Ted Friedman, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, in an interview at Gartner's MDM Summit in Los Angeles.

Middleware, Friedman explained, is software that allows applications to communicate with one another, or send messages back and forth, often in real time, to initiate an action of some kind. It is also sometimes called enterprise application integration (EAI).

Middleware is at use, for example, when a bank assesses a customer's creditworthiness. One application considers the customer's credit history, and if certain conditions are met, middleware allows the application to communicate with another application to continue the process, and so on.

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 Middleware, or EAI, is the "glue" that enables applications running on different platforms to communicate, Friedman said.

In a classic middleware transaction, data itself is not transferred from one location to another, however. That's where data integration -- software that identifies, transforms and moves data from point A, like a transactional database, to point B, such as a data warehouse – comes into play.

But the two disciplines (middleware and data integration) have a number of commonalities, and Friedman said it is to the benefit of both the application development groups and the data integration teams to open up lines of communication to see where they can help each other.

"The two worlds are definitely overlapping," he said. "Over time, we will distinguish between them less."

For example, extract, transform and load (ETL) tools are traditionally used to integrate data in batch from one source to another. But ETL tools are not ideal for real-time movement of data. Middleware solutions such as Oracle BEA's Weblogic and IBM's WebSphereMQ, which facilitate real-time communication between applications, can be used to supplement this process, Friedman said.

Likewise, when data, not just messages, needs to be shared between applications that communicate via middleware, data integration tools can help.

Friedman therefore encourages application development teams and data integration workers to initiate a conversation about the tools and software at use in both groups to avoid making costly, redundant investments in technology. And at a time when IT budgets are tight, making better use of the technology an organization already has is a must.

The convergence of traditional middleware and data integration technology also has ramifications for vendors, Friedman said. Data integration specialists like Informatica will increasingly find it difficult to compete with the likes of IBM and Oracle, which offer both middleware solutions and data integration tools.

IBM has its WebSphere MQ middleware product, as well as its IBM Information Integration platform. Oracle, meanwhile, recently launched the latest version of its Fusion Middleware platform and acquired middleware extraordinaire BEA Systems last year. It also boasts its Oracle Integrator platform and is in the process of acquiring data integration vendor Golden Gate Systems.

"Informatica is finding it harder in competitive situations with IBM and Oracle," Friedman said. "That could be a pain point for Informatica."

Friedman said he wouldn't be surprised to see Informatica and other data integration-only vendors make strategic if small investments in EAI technology to improve their competitive positions.

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