Advantages, drawbacks, and a structured selection process of integration engine alternatives

Integration Engine AlternativesAs software and computing, in general, continues to evolve, there are continually more choices available to businesses that are looking to update, replace, or initially implement an integration engine.  These integration engine alternatives can be difficult to understand, both in terms of complexity, and the simple breadth of choices.

Our intention with this guide is to provide an impartial view of the Integration Engine Alternatives available today, along with some guidelines about criteria that are important to consider, when making a selection.  Art2link maintains our impartiality regarding different products by representing, implementing, and utilizing many different products, from many different vendors, that are shown in various places in this guide.

This guide is organized to provide a structured approach to the selection process, along with some key criteria to help in making the decisions at each step.  The approach presented here is the one that Art2link resources have developed over decades of experience in multiple different integration approaches and packages.  It is an approach to the selection process that has proven to be time and cost effective for multiple large and small clients over the years.

The general scope of decisions to be made is as follows:

  1. What is an integration engine, what can it do for my business, and do I need one?
  2. What are my short-term goals for the engine? What are my long-term goals?
  3. Technology stack / Vendor alternatives
  4. Cloud vs On-Premises vs Hybrid
  5. Partner alternatives


Health AnalysisStep 1: What is an integration engine, what can it do for my business, and do I need one?

The first and most important issue that needs to be discussed and understood by your organization are what an integration engine is, and what it can and can’t do for your organization.

It has been our experience that a vast number of business personnel, as well as technical personnel, have an incomplete or skewed understanding of what an integration engine is, and can do.

This misperception often leads to one of three very common scenarios:

  1. Purchasing and implementing an integration engine only to find it more complex than they originally believed it to be. Often it is believed the process is so simple that non-technical people can build integrations, and this is not the case with any package available today.
  2. Not understanding the capabilities of modern integration engine alternatives, and thinking that their application is too complex to use an integration engine, or that the only way to integrate their systems is one-at-a-time in code.
  3. The most common misunderstanding is not fully understanding what  their integration engine can do. This results in them not using the multiple elements of the engines functionality. Instead, they only use one element, typically the routing/transportation elements, then purchase other packages to do transformation mapping, security, business activity monitoring, HR management, etc.

So the general guidelines for this step of the Integration Engine Alternatives evaluation are as follows:

  1. Make sure you understand all the capabilities of the integration engine package you are considering. Yes, this probably means that you need to bring in an expert in that package for a period of time to make sure you completely understand.  Then COMMUNICATE those capabilities throughout your organization so those others don’t purchase additional packages with overlapping capabilities.
  2. Understand the short term and long term needs of the organization as a whole. An EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) implementation is a significant investment in time and resources for any organization.  Understand the goal before beginning the evaluation.
  3. Make sure that the capabilities of the package that you are considering match up with the short term and long term needs that you previously identified. In the integration engine space, it is very easy to buy packages that do 20 things, when you really only need 2 of those 20.  Don’t kill gnats with sledgehammers.  It is also very easy to buy a package that does 5 things when you need 10, this results in having to buy another package .
  4. Understand the full scope of the price decision. What are the yearly licensing costs?  What kind of external support are you going to need?  How much time and cost is going to be involved in training your personnel to use it?  To support it?  To build new integrations in it?  It’s very easy to get caught up in a “discounts” discussion and miss the true total cost of ownership.
  5. It is exceptionally unusual, in our experience, for clients to be successful installing, configuring, and ultimately building integrations in a modern integration engine entirely on their own. You are going to need outside expertise.  Don’t believe the salesman if he tells you that it’s easy, and you can do it yourself.
  6. Even with the cost of outside expertise included in the calculation, if you have any significant quantity of integrations to implement, it is nearly always cost-beneficial in the long run to use an integration engine, rather than to build those integrations in code. Be sure you calculate the long-term cost of doing it manually/internally, particularly in terms of stability (cost of downtime), transaction visibility, supportability, regulatory requirements, and security.
  7. If you have any significant quantity of integrations, or if you have any significant time pressure on completing and implementing those integrations, strongly consider outsourcing the development of the integrations initially. It will appear to be more expensive in short term dollars, but the increased speed, efficiency, and accuracy provided by developers who make integrations on a regular basis will far outweigh the short-term costs.  (ie:  it’s total cost of ownership, not short term cost that you should be worried about)

Today’s conclusion

If you are strategically thinking about the next move in growing your business, one of the best ways is to make your systems capable of handling different transactions. To do so there are many tools available in the market (such as BizTalk, IBM Websphere, Oracle and more) that allow companies to exchange transactions with many other systems.

Implementing those tools is worthwhile, but sometimes is a difficult task for those not familiar with their operation.  The expert staff at Art2link stands ready to help your business implement and configure your integration tools to help your business take the next step towards sustainable growth.

This is the first post of an Integration Engine Alternatives series. Come back next week for Step 2: “What are my short-term goals for the engine? What are my long-term goals?”

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