Product review: OpenConnect solves integration woes

Companies struggling with integrating existing applications and data into Web and electronic-commerce environments will want to consider OC://WebConnect Enterprise Integration Server (EIS) 1.0. The product provides an application-development framework for linking back-end applications and data to Web-based desktops without replacing existing mid-tier solutions you may have already deployed.

Unlike other integration solutions, such as IBM's MQSeries, that utilise messaging services, EIS provides a development environment that enables companies to encapsulate enterprise applications and data as objects that can be deployed on mid-tier application servers as Java servlets, Enterprise JavaBeans, or as Component Object Model objects.

I found two aspects of EIS especially appealing. First, I did not have to replace any of the existing mid-tier technologies, such as the Netscape and Oracle application servers, that I had on hand in order to use the product.

Second, EIS development support for legacy system connectivity will be a real boon for Web developers. For example, the included development tools give host system Systems Network Architecture applications the appearance of a database application. This support makes it easier for developers to integrate legacy applications into Web environments without the need for extensive host system knowledge.

The Java-based EIS development framework, known as OpenVista, is very easy to understand and use. Developers can easily navigate while creating data access objects, applets, or applications.

The only downside I found with OpenVista is that it ran rather sluggishly at times. This issue aside, EIS worked quite well during my test integration efforts. I was able to successfully create and deploy connectors for both host applications and for some relational data sources. The product also provides linkage for enterprise applications, such as SAP.

Future EIS plans include added linkage for a cadre of application servers. If you are given the task of integrating enterprise applications and data, EIS is worth a look.

Senior Analyst Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) evaluates enterprise technology, has more than 15 years of IT experience, and writes the biweekly Enterprise Toolbox column.

OC://WebConnect EIS at a glance

Supported connections

-- Legacy systems: 3270, 5250, CICS

-- Applications and TP monitors: SAP, PeopleSoft, BEA-- Data: Oracle, DB2, or any Java Database Connectivity, ODBC data sourceServers and management-- Application servers: Netscape, Oracle, Microsoft, or any server that supports Enterprise JavaBeans-- Web servers: Apache, Microsoft, or any other HTTP serverDevelopment and Deployment-- Code management: Merant PVCS, Revision Control System, and others-- Communication: CORBA, Internet Inter-ORB Protocol, Component Object Model (COM)/Distributed Component Object Model-- Deployment: Java servlets, Enterprise JavaBeans, COM objects-- Systems management: CA Unicenter, IBM Tivoli, BMC Patrol, HP OpenViewThe bottom line: very goodOC://WebConnect Enterprise Integration Server 1.0Summary: This application integration solution provides useful facilities that link legacy systems, enterprise resource planning applications, transaction monitors, and relational data into Web application environments.

Business Case: OC://WebConnect Enterprise Integration Server fits neatly into new and existing application server environments and reduces the amount of time and effort needed to integrate back-end systems and applications.

Pros

+ Provides connectivity to a wide array of systems, applications, and data+ Can be deployed with nearly any existing application server+ Straightforward connection development toolsCons- Sluggish development environmentCost: Starts at US$45,000; additional costs based upon the number and types of connectors purchasedPlatforms: Windows NT, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, HP-UXOpenConnect Systems Inc, Dallas; +1-800-551-5881; http://www.openconnect.com

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