No DM Group Is an Island Unto Itself

Business intelligence practices—and the data management groups charged with overseeing them—are by no means independent of the enterprise IT main.

If John Donne were alive today and working in an enterprise data center (instead of, for example, dean-ing it up at St. Paul’s), he might choose to recast his “Meditation XVII” in more topical terms: to wit, No business intelligence (BI) practice (or data management group, for that matter) is an island unto itself.

Okay: maybe he wouldn’t, but the lesson remains: BI practices, and the data management groups charged with overseeing them, are by no means independent of the rest of the enterprise IT main.

That’s why recent research from consulting giant Gartner Inc. seems especially apposite. Gartner started by identifying five application integration trends that it says are changing business applications, but the market watcher’s real takeaway was a piece of advice—namely, that managers must not make the mistake of underestimating the extent of the changes occurring in their application architectures even if they are gradual and, in some cases, unintentional.

“The state of the art in application design and application integration is undergoing a transition because of escalating demands from the business side of the enterprise,” said Roy Schulte, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a statement. “Companies want to modify their applications more quickly, but find themselves saddled with huge investments in hard-to-change legacy systems. They need to adapt their systems and implement new applications that are better suited to ongoing modification.”

Schulte identified five application trends that Gartner believes are changing business applications. First and foremost, of course, is the service-oriented architecture (SOA), which—in tandem with its epiphenomenal cousin (the event-driven architecture, or EDA)—is becoming the dominant model for business applications. This has important ramifications for application managers and for enterprise data management groups, Schulte cautions. “This architectural transformation is driving a significant change in middleware infrastructure as well,” he says. “New forms of middleware, especially enterprise service buses (ESBs) and application platform suites (APSs) are coming into wider use to support the needs of SOA and EDA applications.”

That brings us to prediction-the-second: the incredible proliferating enterprise service bus (ESB). The ESB is the sine qua non of service-orientation. Better make that ESBs: Schulte and Gartner say every large company is going to have at least one, and possibly more than one, ESB—some will be independent products, the researcher says, but most will be embedded in other products. Gartner analysts expect this change to happen relatively rapidly: by the end of the year, in fact, more than half of all large companies will have an ESB (or an ESB-like equivalent) running somewhere inside their infrastructures.

Elsewhere on the trends-to-watch front, Gartner predicts the diminution of at least one time-tested best practice—in part, researchers say, because it has since become a universally accepted common practice. Integration logic—including high-level process flows—is increasingly separated from presentation, business and data logic in most large new systems, Schulte says: “Application architects and developers should separate integration logic from endpoint business application logic at all stages of modeling, development, deployment, management and maintenance to maximize agility and minimize complexity.”

Gartner’s fourth trend to watch is the strange phenomenon of the middleware appliance, which researchers say will complement and in some cases compete against transformation engines, ESBs, integration suites, security software and application suites. Its acceptance, however, seems all but assured, Gartner analysts argue: By 2008, in fact, more than 40 percent of large businesses will have deployed middleware appliances.

“Leading-edge projects that need high throughput, low latency and robust distributed computing features should sometimes consider middleware appliances to complement, and elsewhere to replace, transformation, security, integration suites and other integration middleware,” Schulte explains.

Finally, organizations will embrace event processing to improve real-time visibility into their business operations and enable them to develop or support better sense-and-respond systems, Gartner researchers say.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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