Doing Application Integration on the Cheap

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2006-06-16 Print this article Print

The Marena Group, a specialty garments maker, found open-source integration software from Jitterbit simpler—and less expensive—than alternatives like Microsoft BizTalk.

Sometimes, quick-and-easy technology wins the day.

The Marena Group, a Lawrenceville, Ga.-based company that makes specialty support garments for plastic surgery patients, had been doing business electronically with its U.S. distributor for years using custom software that piped electronic data interchange (EDI) documents into its manufacturing system.

But Marena is a small company with just a few dozen employees, and over the long term information-technology director Alex Knezevic decided it would be a mistake to rely on the homegrown software.

"It was not reliable, not an enterprise system, and there were always concerns about what's going to happen when that breaks," he says. Problem was, he couldn't afford to buy the kind of enterprise integration software sold to much larger companies.

So Marena wound up becoming one of the first customers of Jitterbit, an Alameda, Calif.-based company that provides an open-source integration system. The Jitterbit 1.0 software, which was released in May, is available as a free download or in a professional version (which includes technical support and few more features) that starts at $9,995.

Before settling on Jitterbit, Knezevic had been considering Microsoft BizTalk as the integration system with the most reasonable pricing. But when he experimented with BizTalk, he says, it struck him as too complex, perhaps because Microsoft has been adding features to appeal to larger enterprises.

After downloading Jitterbit, he found it offered what he was looking for: the combination of an easy-to-use visual development tool and a server capable of handling the latest eXtensible Markup Language (XML) Web services technologies, as well as more custom database-to-database and file-to-database integration tasks. "Compared to at least what we've researched, and compared to regular coding, it's a lot simpler," he says.

"The attraction, at first, was that it was free," Knezevic says. But although the version he started with was immature and the documentation was incomplete, he was impressed by how attentive the vendor was at helping him work through the problems he encountered with his first project, to replace the homegrown EDI integration solution. Since then, Marena has purchased a commercial license and is using Jitterbit for integration with the company's Web store and with a customer rewards program.

Sharam Sasson, Jitterbit's president and CEO, says he sees an opportunity in the "underserved market" for small to medium-sized businesses, although his server logs also show downloads from Fortune 500 organizations that are at least checking out the software.

In addition to Marena, Jitterbit claims General Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust and shopping center operator, as another early customer. A General Growth representative, however, said that because of company policy, he could not comment on the use of the software.

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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