CATEGORY: Enterprise Information Portals
REVIEWER: Craig Jorasch, chief technical officer for Octopus, Inc.
BACKGROUND: Octopus offers a new breed of e-business applications, Meta Applications, that give companies real-time access to current and complete information necessary for business processes. The Octopus solution includes a next-generation, specialized portal that pulls together and manages data from a wide range of disparate enterprise and Internet information sources including commercial software applications, data stores, legacy systems, the Internet and corporate intranets. Users are then presented with a panoramic "view" of interrelated information; this provides business professionals immediate access to all the information necessary to make informed decisions and respond quickly to market opportunities. Octopus provides a corporate portal product that, unlike most, enables users to dynamically construct their user interfaces. This gives users the freedom to choose which information to access and which views of the information to display as well as determine how that information will interact.
PLATFORMS: Data Junction is running internally on Compaq servers running Windows 2000.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our Meta Applications solution addresses the constant business challenge of being able to immediately access and manage information elements that are stored in different locations and different types of databases. Making such information accessible to end users requires connecting to that information and providing an effective user interface to access the information. Data Junction provides the plumbing or key integration component that enables us to convert information from various databases into the XML format that is then accessible to end users through our customizable interface. By employing the integration flexibility of Data Junction, we solve the problem of providing access to a wide range of underlying information sources.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Data Junction currently provides the integration component behind our internal corporate portal, enabling us to connect to such information sources as SQL databases containing Web usage statistics as well as different databases contained in our customer support software. That information is then mapped to an XML format for our corporate portal, which is accessed by our internal users. While those conversions are currently batch processes, we are looking at taking advantage of Data Junction's real-time processing capabilities. For external users, we plan to include Data Junction as an integration module with our product so that those customers needing this broader conversion capability can bring a variety of information sources into their own corporate portals.
STRENGTHS: The main strengths of Data Junction are its simplicity and flexibility. The user is able to get up and running quite easily. The product also provides the ability to use a consistent integration approach across a range of back-end products. Other strengths of the product that are important to us are its strong support for XML and the capability to do both batch and real-time processing.
WEAKNESSES: One of the challenges we will continue to face from a customer standpoint is the wide variety of best-of-breed applications, legacy systems and other sources being used that present integration challenges. While one of Data Junction's strengths is the large number of sources the product supports, there are always more formats out there that could be added to further enhance the value of the product.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at a number of EAI providers, and each had its own strength or focus. However, for the basic ability to access databases, Data Junction was the best overall solution. We also considered the range of sources supported, ease of use and performance. For our purposes, specific performance criteria included the speed with which the product could handle large databases (some with millions of rows) and the ability to handle high volumes of data.
DELIVERABLES: Data Junction provides the integration component that enables us to access data in many different formats and locations and transform that information into XML for access through our corporate portal. Data Junction also enables us to offer a flexible integration module for Octopus customers who need that component.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Because our implementation was very straightforward and the product is easy to use, we have not run into many issues that we weren't able to solve. However, Data Junction's staff has been helpful and quick to answer any questions.
DOCUMENTATION: As with most software products, the documentation could be improved. However, it was easy to understand; and we were able to run the product based on the documentation alone.
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