Project No 1: Application Integration

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-05-23 Print this article Print

The goal: Squeeze more data out of existing systems, and do it faster and more efficiently:

Project No 1

Project Summary
Technology: Software that allows two or more information systems to exchange data
Goals: Speed up the time needed to complete business transactions; reduce costs of synchronizing data that's used by multiple systems
Average planned spending in 2005: $12.1 million

Squeeze more data out of Your existing systems, and do it faster and more efficiently: That's the mandate for companies launching application integration projects in 2005.

Getting applications to speak a common language tops the priority list for many enterprises, whether their goal is to improve internal processes or smooth information exchanges with their partners.

Sutter Health, a not-for-profit health-care network based in Sacramento, Calif., needed a central point to integrate data among multiple applications—in a very big way. The company, which had $5.7 billion in revenue in 2003, runs medical and business applications from 25 vendors, including Cerner, Epic Systems, GE, Oracle and Siemens Medical Systems.

Three years ago, Sutter's information-technology group had written around 800 different pieces of code to swap data among those applications, says John Hummel, Sutter's chief information officer. "Sutter has never met a vendor it didn't like," Hummel says. "The best-of-breed idea was bright until we got into the thick of it."

One of the biggest problems with the setup, Hummel says, was that each of the 25 vendors upgraded its applications on its own schedule. And any new version might change the way one application worked with all the others. "You have to validate that everything works with everything else, every time something is upgraded," he says.

Last year, Sutter completed a $5.5 million project using SeeBeyond's application integration software, which passes 100 million messages per day among the company's different systems. Now, when an application changes, only its connection to the SeeBeyond software needs to be updated.

Hummel has just one major caveat: He's tied at the hip to the SeeBeyond system's good health. If it ever goes down, he estimates, Sutter would lose $200,000 per hour in administrative overhead to switch to paper-based processes. "If the interface engine breaks, the applications could be running but our users are dead in the water," he says.

So the company spent $2 million more than originally budgeted for additional IBM server and storage hardware, configured to take over in case the primary systems fail.


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