Open Source Integration
Open Source IntegrationPublished By: NewsForge
Integration has been all the buzz in almost every IT trade magazine for the past 18 months (or more). Acronyms like EAI, EDI, XSLT, SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, JMS, and BPML are everywhere. And it seems like everybody's got an integration system of one form or anotherï¿½Microsoft®, WebMethods®, TibcoTM, Data Junction®, IBM®, and BEATM just to name a few. But there's one thing that you've never seen in those articlesï¿½the words ï¿½open source.ï¿½ That's all about to change.
Just over two years ago, during a conversation with TJ Chung, then VP of Strategy for Brunswick Corporation, the challenge of integrating with a diverse group of suppliers and dealers came up. I was presented with a mission ï¿½ figure out how to use one software solution to integrate with all of Brunswickï¿½s dealers, regardless of size or technology.
The solution had to be cost effective for everyone, even the smallest dealer. Since Brunswick does business with a wide variety of businesses to from small mom-and-pop shops, to large distributors, the system had to be scalable to fit their business needs as well. And finally, maintenance and administration of the software had to be simple.
Within a couple of months we had worked through our exploratory phase and had evaluated some of the players in the integration space. They were either too expensive or didn't have the functionality we needed. During that time, I had been toying with the idea of building our own integration software. We would get exactly what we needed, and we'd own it, thus saving a considerable amount, possibly millions, in licensing fees.
We had our mission, had done our planning, and were off to battle. The team and I muddled our way through many concepts such as using instant messaging frameworks, various message queuing systems including JMS, and several others. We eventually decided on a web-services-based platform since it seemed to be getting mainstream acceptance and it was real-time. However, because of our experience in the manufacturing industry, and our dealings with legacy systems, we knew that not everyone would be able to use web-services. More traditional protocols, like FTP, would be needed as well.
Because the IT staff at most companies don't usually have time to sit down and write code to do translations, a fully drag and drop visual map builder was the weapon we forged. We knew that some business users could define business processes if we gave them a simple tool to use, so we built a web-based dashboard with a graphical process builder. Some dealers are just too small to manage a full integration system, so we built a ï¿½liteï¿½ version that can be configured via a wizard interface allowing all the heavy lifting to be handled by the manufacturers and large distributors.
When the smoke cleared, we had the Business Integration Engine (BIE) and the same challenge as everyone else ï¿½ how do we make BIE affordable? The answer turned out to be open source and on May 15th, WDI, a division of the New Technologies arm of Brunswick Corporation, released BIE under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
Open sourcing BIE will allow us to benefit from the knowledge of those in other industries and also from the global experiences of the open source software (OSS) community. But the open source community and businesses adopting open source also win. The OSS community now has a full integration suite to build from and to gain experience on. And any size business can now enter the integrated business era without the cost of the commercial packages.