What is integration?

To no-one's surprise, integration is causing much of the pain that Web services can today help to alleviate. For InfoWorld's CTO of the year, Dawn Meyerriecks , the challenge is monumental. "We have 1600 financial apps alone," she said in a morning panel on preserving the value of legacy apps. "Collapsing those by just one order of magnitude in 5 years is a modest goal." Particularly when, in some cases, source code can't even be found.

We've heard it all before, of course. But Web services changes the game in a couple of ways, says Cape Clear's Annrai O'Toole. Microsoft's arrival on the scene is, in his view, a huge factor. "When Microsoft bolted TCP/IP onto Win95," he said, "they created the Internet." In the same way, he thinks, the now-standard deployment of a SOAP stack in Windows makes widespread integration based on Web services a foregone conclusion. The other key factor is XML data representation which drives the syntactic cost of integration -- the EAI bottleneck -- toward zero.

O'Toole is much less sanguine, though, about business process integration. He wonders if it's even possible to declaratively describe a business process. "We've all seen the demos where the stick man does a yes/no analysis of the purchase order and hands it to the other stick man," O'Toole joked. "That lasts five minutes, then you throw it away and start coding." He thinks we'll still need to do a lot of scripting to glue things together.

It's a great point. We can, and should, embrace the declarative, data-driven approach to integration wherever possible. But scripting languages will continue to be the ubiquitous duct tape of the Internet.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/09/19.html#a414