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Swiss SOA firm puts modelling over programming

Enterprise integration tool is run-time UML interpreter

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Swiss company E2E has set up a UK office to sell its enterprise application integration software. It's taking an unorthodox approach to EAI - instead of selling tools to help programmers build interfaces that translate between applications, it has designed a interpreter, called E2E Bridge, that takes business models written in UML (unified modelling language) and uses those to generate the necessary data movements.

The usual way to fill the gap between existing apps and process-oriented business services (or SOA) is traditional programming work, the company says. Business analysts prepare a model, showing which apps need to exchange which data, and then programmers implement it.

E2E claims that its "model-driven integration" approach is quite different, as its software works directly with the UML model to expose the underlying apps as services.

"We have a C++ engine that uses a UML file as parameters. It's certainly not the standard way of cutting code. It doesn't generate code or require you to learn a toolkit," said its UK technical director Shaun Conn.

"We would expect a customer to have the back-end in place and know how they want to expose the services. We can use whatever technology they have - for example, we could do model-driven conversion between SAP and a database."

Of course, the E2E Bridge still needs to understand the APIs available to it within the various applications. But Conn claimed that it's a matter of putting the complexity where it belongs - in software, not programming teams.

"EAI tools can cost five to ten times the software cost in implementation fees," he said. "Most companies already have the modelling skills, but not the software development skills - we just execute their designs. When we tell them that, people think there's something missing, but there isn't.

"It moves the workload back to the business analysts, not the database analysts and Java programmers, which to be honest is the way a CIO should want it to go. It's a matter of how data is seen and accessed, not what software is used underneath.

"Ultimately, only the model will be important. All software vendors will expose their services in the same way, and UML will make it possible for CIOs to design services." ®

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