All the chatter is about Data Integration in the IT market – and truth be told, Data Integration deserves all the ink it can get. There are some tough problems here as we shall discuss on the review side of this website. But really there are two other Integration components motoring along in the IT world – Workflow Integration and what I call GUI or Presentation Integration.
Workflow and Data Integration are tightly linked by Long Transactions. Web developers know the ones – transactions that take minutes if not hours and days to complete with the headache of reconciliation and/or rollback. This makes the world of high speed transactions with their ACID properties, locks and automated commits/rollbacks look easy if only because they are automated by strict rules – no exceptions allowed. Long transactions get into the world of BPM, business rules, versioning, and exceptionally diverse exception handling. Muddy Waters – his R&B wailing tunes echo the nature of the problems.
In contrast GUI/Presentation Integration is less coupled to Data and Workflow Integration. Obviously it does not stand alone as GUI interfaces are vital to both Data and especially Workflow Integration. GUI Integration is about the last mile, the penultimate step, the individual local connections each one of us has chosen for Information at our Fingertips. Yes its a return to how to deliver 6As with the 3Os => Any information delivered anywhere, anytime, to anyone authorized on any device, online or offline operation (< = the three amigOs). Now this is real Information at your Fingertips. Now the Originators of Information at your Fingertips still cannot deliver - "but we are working on it and trust us, like security and reliability, we shall deliver some time real soon." But the problem is the Originators also not only want but compel you to buy into a tightly coupled "It Works Best Only with Us" Data and Workflow Integration solution which, again, they cannot deliver but also are working on full hardcore. This is a bit like the Classic Rubber Tire Swing cartoon. You know the one - What the customer wanted -> a rubber tire suspended from a branch for the kids to play on. What System Designers envisioned -> a rubber tire suspended from a gantry with a safety belt seat. What IT delivered -> a rubber tire on the ground with two ropes tied to a wooden scaffold nailed to the tree. Not close.
What IT Wants for GUI Integration
In delicious irony IT is now specifying the Rubber Tire Swing it wants from software vendors:
“Well since it involves Integration we want the GUI to run on any OS platform because we can never tell where we may need to run now and in the future. Also we would like it to be able to run on any device – you know PDA, mobile phone, PC desktop, kiosk, embedded display, etc. As well the GUI should run default with the same default look+feel, basic features and controlling gestures and processes on all devices and platforms. But the GUI should be savvy and customize itself to fit into the size and operating constraints of individual devices/platforms with minimal degradation. Also the GUI should present users with the opportunity to customize the look and feel of the interface and retain those customizations for future use. Ohh and the GUI should helps support the three amigOs -> Online or Offline Operation. Finally we want the coding for this to be uniform – the same code that works for a Web page, also works for kiosk or desktop or embedded display panel. Yes, we want Java-like any platform, any device coding and support”.
Now given the last requirement, you would think that Java with its Apps, Applets, JSP, JSF, and J2ME would be leading the uniform GUI Integration. Well not exactly – Java is still pretty close. But it looks like Adobes Apollo is the current front runner on delivering full GUI Integration but there are a number of software vendors in this race including the original Information at your Fingertips gals and guys. Stay tuned to Keep an Open Eye over the next year or two for the GUI Integration race call.