May 26, 2003

Open Source Integration

JT Smith writes "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 another�Microsoft®,
, IBM®,

just to name a few. But there's one thing that you've never seen in
those articles�the words �open source.� That's
all about
to change.

Just over two years ago, during a
conversation with TJ
, 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 � figure out how
to use one software solution to integrate with all of Brunswick�s
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
�lite� 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
Integration Engine (BIE)
and the same challenge as
everyone else � how do we make BIE affordable? The answer turned
out to be open source and on May 15th, WDI,
a division of the New
arm of Brunswick
, 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

BIE can be downloaded from
and more information can be found at

JT Smith is the Director of Technology
for WDI and has been an activeopensourceevangelist
for many years.


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