CATEGORY: Data Integration
REVIEWER: Bo Foster, director of corporate systems and eCommerce for Alcan Corporation.
BACKGROUND: Alcan Corporation, based in Cleveland, Ohio, is a U.S. subsidiary of Alcan Inc., a multinational leader in aluminum and specialty packaging with annual revenues of approximately $13 billion. In the U.S., Alcan employs more than 4,500 people at 13 facilities within primary and fabricated aluminum, foil packaging, cable, chemicals and aluminum recycling operations through various subsidiaries, all under the management of Alcan Corporation.
PLATFORMS: Alcan Corporation is currently using an EAI hub based on Microsoft BizTalk Server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Alcan Corporation needed to devise a low-cost, all-purpose integration strategy to streamline multiple e-business development objectives. In addition, our IT department needed to help close the e-commerce capability gap by building self-service applications for employees, customers and vendors, with an emphasis on business intelligence to boost productivity. These initiatives are all part of a comprehensive e-business strategy designed to increase trading partner intimacy while streamlining collaborative commerce and logistics. On the buy side, this includes lowering the cost of procurement with online links to Alcan's freight database and electronic catalogs. On the sell side, it entails enhanced business processes for online ordering, portal integration and access to self-service applications. Integration technology from iWay Software has played an important role in creating better e-business processes and delivering timely information to Alcan users.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: By using iWay's integration framework, Alcan developers can build integration hubs composed of all the information sources that need to be accessed to service a business application or business transaction. By plugging in the appropriate iWay adapters and connectors, data from multiple sources can then be accessed and retrieved without having to hardwire all the separate interactions between the data sources and the applications. Alcan has also created data warehouses using iWay tools, enabling partners, employees and customers to leverage information that they could not easily access in the past. iWay's ability to simplify the interchange of information and transactions that originate in half a dozen legacy systems was key for the impact of the software's functionality. Alcan has made significant headway toward achieving its overall e-business vision, and the savings have been dramatic. iWay allows Alcan to broker transactions among legacy manufacturing, financial, logistics and load-tendering solutions to dramatically simplify the architecture. With this integration strategy from iWay Software, Alcan Corporation will save $16 million dollars annually.
STRENGTHS: iWay's ability to handle diversity is a main strength of the product. iWay provides a consistent and reliable integration platform, enabling the reuse of enterprise IT assets across multiple business systems. iWay also allows Alcan Corporation to put a ring of common services around core information systems, providing the option of using XML, Web services and other standard interface mechanisms to link users to information.
WEAKNESSES: My main complaint about iWay Software adapters is probably a statement for the integration software industry as a whole the products require extensive technical understanding to apply them correctly. To make a correct decision, one must understand all the products available, and understand how to apply them within their own environment.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Successful e-business integration involves tying unique front-end applications designed for Web-based self-service into multiple back-end databases, transaction systems and ERP applications. To meet these objectives, Alcan conducted a balanced scorecard evaluation, which revealed iWay as the best fit for its application integration needs. Alcan was drawn to iWay for its comprehensive, service-oriented architecture and overall ease of use. In addition, iWay was able to execute a proof of concept in just a few hours, versus some of the other vendors who struggled to demonstrate similar capabilities in days and even then we were never 100-percent satisfied with the results.
VENDOR SUPPORT: iWay Software support has been tremendous both pre- and post-implementation. Integration projects by their very nature are complex. The iWay team and technology helped make this as smooth as possible.
DOCUMENTATION: Most integration software is not made to be installed or configured by the end user. Although documentation and technical specification sheets are not sufficient on their own, I find iWay's development environment very easy to use. They are working toward a point-and-click integration development environment that is almost as easy to use as Internet Explorer.
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