Friday, June 14, 2002

Integrating the Enterprise. My next few entries are going to deal with some of the better books about enterprise systems. One such book is Enterprise Systems Integration.The audience for this book consists of architecture and integration group members, making this book an ideal addition to group libraries. The focus is on ERP architecture, although the range of topics overlap into non-ERP domains, and is best used as a desk reference because it's a collection of short papers written by 70+ authors instead of a book that focuses on a specific approach or methodology. The papers comprising this desk reference are organized in logical groupings that are akin to layers in an enterprise architecture.

Each section is devoted to carefully chosen papers, some of which reflect individual authors' experience. The strength of this approach is that you benefit from a rich diversity of viewpoints and deep subject matter knowledge. The weakness is that some of the material is inconsistent with what precedes or follows in the book.

Since this is a technology-focused book the highlights are that the information is current and reflects issues, methods and technologies that are valid as of the date this review was written. The editors ensured that information that is not commonly used in ERP integration, such as web services, are not addressed. This doesn't imply that web services will not play a future key role (such as in PeopleSoft 8), but that most ERP implementations are integrated using middleware, XML and other methods. The more typical integration methods are covered in great detail, and the sections on database servers and data warehousing are especially informative.

I also like the section on Internet commerce, which covers topics ranging from web-based testing and capacity planning to XML-based B2B commerce - topics that are not commonly found in other ERP texts. The section on project and systems management also contained excellent information, such as the paper titled "Service Level Management Links IT to the Business", which touches upon a critical aspect of integration. Each of the four papers in the Component-Based Development section also included information that should be carefully considered by large enterprises, especially those that are using off-shore development of off-site contractors to develop modules. This section goes into each of the major critical issues, including economic considerations, domain engineering, server-side Java development and object library management.

Some of the information in this book is time sensitive in that it will be rendered obsolete as web services play a larger role in ERP systems (which is already happening in a sense), and XML and/or ebXML emerge as a core component of all of the major packages, such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, etc. If you have a defined architecture or integration group this book will make a good investment because of the wide array of topics covered. If, however, you are seeking a book that provides a methodology or focused technology description this book may not be for you.

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