Enterprise information integration (EII) technologies have to deliver on four counts, according to Toby Redshaw, chief technology officer at communications equipment manufacturer Motorola. "You have to have rapid, intelligent interrogation of databases, robust data normalization, a metadata modeler and an ability to express the results in a long list of ways-especially as Web services," says Redshaw.
Motorola is relying on EII and a services-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative to build a better supply chain and improve customer service. These technologies were chosen for their speed of deployment and ability to bridge gaps between disparate applications and platforms deployed departmentally or added through acquisitions.
"The issues are about access and processes," says Redshaw, describing a recent services and EII project aimed at gaining access to and normalizing customer data from all points along the supply chain. "There's no reason we should be coding the solution at each point along the way. We found middleware and tools that would help us solve repetitive problems."
Motorola takes a methodical approach to creating reusable integrations. "We do a prototype, we learn, we do analysis, we learn some more and then we roll out the next wave and the next wave [of prototypes] before we take it mainstream," says Redshaw.
Reusable integration services cut solution costs and deployment cycles. Redshaw says the supply chain project was completed in nine weeks, and he estimates it would have taken six to seven months through conventional, custom integration work.
Another project completed last fall was designed to pull financial and operational data from a series of databases to create a more coherent view of performance. That effort took about seven weeks, says Redshaw. Motorola standardized on AmberPoint SOA management software and MetaMatrix EII middleware for its SOA initiative after putting dozens of vendors "through a ringer" before the selections were made, examining everything from finances and management to architecture and ability to execute.
"We look for the best of value, not the best of breed," Redshaw says. "If I have two vendors that are neck and neck, I'm going to pick the one that's 30 percent cheaper. To me, it's the 80 percent of features and functions that are the whole ball game. The rest is just fluff."
Redshaw warns fellow CTOs to set architectural standards and design a master blueprint before beginning an SOA initiative, "or you're just going to end up creating metaspaghetti, and it will be hard to unravel. Many companies get into trouble because they build without blueprints."