Connecting A to B: A swivel chair approach

By , |  Development, application, enterprise

If you had to name one highly effective enterprise application integration strategy what would it be? An Enterprise Service Bus? A Service Oriented Architecture? A distributed object API? How about an asynchronous messaging substrate?

Let's not fight (and goodness knows it is possible to fight) about what these terms actually mean and let's not slug it out over the merits and demerits of each. Instead, let's start with something I think we can all agree on. Namely, that all of the above are examples of using Information Technology to solve problems for the current installed base of, um, Information Technology.

Sometimes, when my disposition shades towards the cynical end of the spectrum, I find myself comparing these things to pouring gasoline onto a fire. In more optimistic moments I compare them to laying down freeways. It is more concrete but designed to facilitate interconnection of existing concrete (buildings).

I find it interesting that we have a tendency to rush to find IT solutions to our IT problems. A good example of this I think is the speed with which we snicker at the very mention of a swivel chair-based integration strategy. It smacks of wrongness. We feel a strong urge to take the chair away and do it "properly".

This is another one of those "I was that soldier" moments. I have removed my fair share of swivel chairs over the years. However, I have also come to appreciate that they very much have a place in the pantheon of integration strategies.

I could pick many representative examples but let's limit it to just two. Scenario A. Two IT applications need to be integrated because of an acquisition/merger. There is no existing integration strategy or indeed even well-defined integration points because previously, the systems were completely separate and invisible from each other.

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