The creation of an enterprise data tier is becoming a practical reality with today's standard architectures and interfaces. Creating a unified layer where applications can interact with the data they need has the promise to vastly simplify application maintenance and reduce the number of redundant data stores spread around the organization. To achieve this goal in an orderly and incremental fashion, we need to make some modest changes in the way we approach integration projects. Our data integration work today is creating precious new information assets for the organization, not just checking off a task in an application project. We need to create reusable definitions of integrated data, reusable integration logic and interfaces that match application requirements. As we complete each project, we can add these assets incrementally to the data tier and transform the way our companies develop and maintain applications. But to make it work, and to avoid becoming yet another silo, the data tier must be able to scale across the enterprise for potentially many applications and data sources. Enterprise information integration (EII) solutions can help us get there ­ if they are flexible and scalable enough.

With the complexity of data required by today's applications, it is becoming more difficult to justify carrying out data integration projects independently within one department or location, or to create a de facto silo based on one group's choice of a special-purpose technology. It's not the integration technology that's at issue here so much as the need to preserve and build on the integration work we do. When projects operate in a disjointed way, it is nearly impossible to reuse integration work, whether that work is manifested in a data mart or in application code. Enterprise productivity suffers as the same work is frequently redone in another part of the organization, and no one can build on the abstractions created within the project.

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