REVIEWER: Michael Tutty, department of administrative services (DAS) enterprise architect for the State of Iowa.

BACKGROUND: In 2003, legislation in Iowa consolidated the state’s personnel, general services and IT departments into a singular DAS. A melded department of all services that do not directly affect citizens, DAS provides support to many state, county and local agencies throughout Iowa.

PLATFORMS: We use Jitterbit to integrate with databases, Web services (SOAP), flat-file and XML data across the State’s network from both inside and outside the firewall.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Certain programs, such as the State’s enterprise resource planning and email systems, are mandated by the governor’s office to be managed by DAS, while other programs are subject to fair marketplace competition with third-party vendors. The State of Iowa has a program to hold payments to citizens or vendors who owe debts to State agencies (such as court-ordered child support payments or back taxes). DAS is directly responsible for maintaining this database of debtors within this vendor-offset program, a task that requires integration of different data from inside and outside the state’s network. In 2007, the State of Iowa passed legislation allowing county and city agencies to add their debtors to the database, leveraging the state’s data processing power to secure payments of locally oriented debts (e.g., municipal parking tickets, library fees, jail fees). While a major asset for these smaller agencies, DAS needed to immediately provide secure, reliable data and application integration to a much wider pool of resources. The new program called for the database to pull information from dozens of different file types. Jitterbit has efficiently enabled DAS to offer batch-oriented processing of the files submitted by agencies, bridging the functional gap into the transactional data store – without needing to rework the Web application to handle the mixed types of data from outside the state’s firewall. Jitterbit has given DAS a cost-effective, predictable way to develop the integration solutions it needs as challenges arise. About 80 percent of the integration challenges are handled through Jitterbit’s intuitive drag-and-drop interface – the last 20 percent are resolved through Jitterbit's powerful scripting capabilities or through its flexible and extensible plug-in architecture.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use Jitterbit to integrate with databases, Web services (SOAP), flat-file and XML data across the state’s network from both inside and outside the firewall. Some of the processes within the program that rely on Jitterbit include: accepting batches of service requests from state and local governments, validating and formatting financial payment information for the state’s ERP system, gathering usage metrics and operational statistics from disparate sources (extract, transform and load for warehousing) and updating the status of requests in a custom portal based on changes to back-office data.

STRENGTHS: Anyone can download Jitterbit without needing a license key or prior approval. This has contributed to the somewhat viral, do-it-yourself adoption of Jitterbit within the state. We generally get programmers up and productive in Jitterbit with one to two hours of setup and walkthrough.

WEAKNESSES: Jitterbit 2.0's reliance on ODBC makes deploying to non-Windows systems problematic. We have trouble finding support for the few unixODBC errors or configuration problems that we've encountered. We asked for a JDBC-enabled version of Jitterbit and this requirement was solved in the most recent release, Jitterbit 3.0.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our ERP and finance groups have both been using a data integration product, but neither are strong advocates for its use. In addition, the other product is tightly licensed, and we’ve found it difficult to justify the high cost for use in other applications. We needed a general-purpose scheduling and integration tool for our SOA strategy, but there was a specific project need and that’s what spurred me to look around. I stumbled across both Jitterbit while doing a search for integration tools. I tried Jitterbit for 15 minutes and had a working solution to my problem. The lack of license-key lockdown meant that anyone could try it out at any time. We were able to go to production with the project without having to buy anything from Jitterbit, and subsequently purchased a support agreement from them, on our own schedule and terms. We’ve made Jitterbit part of our SOA platform and now offer Jitterbit servers free of charge for other State agencies to use under the SOA umbrella.

DELIVERABLES: Because of its broad-based applicability and easy accessibility, Jitterbit has been adopted across an array of state and local agencies. Instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars for comparable proprietary tools and computing resources, we've been able to make Jitterbit services available to all State agencies as a utility service, at a reasonable cost per year.

VENDOR SUPPORT: DAS staff has been very impressed by the level of customer support they have received from Jitterbit. A couple of times a year, Jitterbit reaches out to us for feedback on current features and proposes future software changes. It’s a two-way relationship that gives us unusual visibility and input into the product roadmap. The Jitterbit staff was extremely responsive and attentive, without being pushy towards a sale. Their forums have an amazing amount of traffic and knowledge that is easy to find and apply. It was (and continues to be) by far the best software vendor relationship I’ve been part of.

DOCUMENTATION: The Jitterbit designer includes integrated help on every screen for every function and the forums and online wiki offer another level of information on how to apply Jitterbit to various problems.

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