One of the most difficult decisions facing attendees at Gartner’s Application Integration Conference in Orlando, FL, this week is the selection of an application integration broker. (TechRepublic is an independent subsidiary of Gartner, an IT consultancy based in Stamford, CT.)

Application integration brokers tie together disparate solutions to facilitate an effective movement of data both inside and outside the walls of an organization.

The consistent and accurate flow of data to the appropriate application is crucial for success in e-business. The increasing hype over the impact of application integration on meeting e-business objectives, such as reduced supply chain costs, has caused a wave of solutions to hit the market in the last 12 to 18 months.

How do you sort through the hype and decide which integration broker is right for your company? Here’s a quick list of technical criteria that Gartner recommends to help you narrow your vendor shortlist.

Integration broker functionality evaluation criteria
While every vendor claims to have superior technology, it’s crucial to “drill down on the specific functionality, such as adapters and application monitoring, to determine if the solution will meet your needs,” said Ross Altman, research director for application integration at Gartner.

With integration broker products starting at $250,000, senior IT strategists should rank each criterion as it pertains to the particular integration needs of their company.

  • Transformation—The integrated applications will not share the same data semantics, so the integration broker must support a variety of transformation functions.
  • Transport—The broker must move data from source application to target application. Messaging technology, such as IBM’s MQSeries, is the most common transport for an integration broker.
  • Adapters—An adapter is a sliver of code used to establish an interface between the broker and an external application. Look for adapters that are compatible with your organization’s back-end ERP system, as well as your customer relationship management and supply chain management applications.
  • Routing/workflow—You should ensure that the message reaches the correct application and that the flow of data is in line with your company’s business rules.
  • Messaging management—The messaging functionality should include a message warehouse that stores each message and can track performance. A monitoring function should be used to warn application administrators if the messaging fails to perform or exceeds metrics.
  • Integrated development environment (IDE)—The solution should include a metadata repository where application development information will be kept, as well as the ability to manage different versions of the application over an extended period of time.
  • Deployment management—Deployment management offers the application administrator a tool to control the application deployment process, including load balancing and system performance.

Nontechnical evaluation considerations
Other considerations, such as vendor market share, profitability, worldwide support, and strong vertical market knowledge, also affect the selection process.

Altman warns companies to choose a solution that solves current problems: “Even if the vendor might be acquired in the next couple of years due to market consolidation, buy a tool for today’s needs. You may acquire another integration broker in three to four years.”

Cobbling applications together?

Is your company developing its own integration brokers or is it buying one? Drop us a note or join the discussion below.