Digital Integration Hubs Emerge To Accelerate Transformations
February 7, 2022 Alex Woodie
A new design pattern called a digital integration hub is emerging to help organizations with legacy applications reap the benefits of digital transformation — not by moving off battle-hardened platforms and legacy ERP systems, but by piping data from them into a fast, new data store that interfaces with Web services.
Former Gartner analyst Massimo Pezzini is credited with popularizing the digital integration hub (DIH) concept in 2019. The DIH essentially is a fast database, often implemented atop in-memory technology, that stores the data required to serve new applications implemented as part of a digital transformation project, such as big data analytics, Web and mobile applications, and Customer 360 systems.
There are often three layers to a typical DIH deployment. There is the DIH itself, which is often an in-memory database or the IMDG itself. Critical data is loaded into a DIH using either event log-based changed data capture (CDC) technology (for the most time-sensitive use cases) or using traditional batch-based extract, transform, and load (ETL) methods. Finally, data is served to the consuming applications using modern Web services methods, often with an API gateway.
Noam Herzenstein, the director of product marketing with in-memory data grid (IMDG) vendor Gigaspaces, says the DIH concept is starting to get traction among customers.
“The idea here is to decouple systems of record,” he says. “If you need daily reports, that’s fine. But now digital applications need to access the data immediately, both in terms of performance, the latency, as well as concurrency.”
While organizations can build their own DIHs, it can require maintaining a lot of bespoke connections. Gigaspaces says that by providing pre-built components for a DIH, it can reduce much of the time, cost, and risk associated with a DIH deployment.
“We see a lot of vendors calling it DIH. Everybody is doing it now, because digital transformation is so hot,” Herzenstein says. “It started maybe a decade ago, but accelerated during the pandemic.”
Companies that are adopting DIH are facing the pressure to digitally transform themselves to keep up with startups that are intent on displacing them and stealing their business, Herzenstein says.
“If you are a digital-born company, you don’t need it. You don’t have a lot of legacy systems of record. Your system is already modern,” he says. “But the organizations that predate them — legacy banks, insurance companies, retailers, utilities, airlines. . . .”
In other words, DIH is being adopted by established organizations that have real world assets, as opposed to the high-flying startups manipulate data or act as middlemen. If that sounds like a good description of the types of companies that have invested in Big Iron from IBM, that’s because it is.
“The pressure is on them to transform fast,” Herzenstein says. “They have mainframes and Oracle and SQL databases. The data is in a lot of siloed places.”
Customer 360 is a popular application to deploy atop a DIH. For example, an insurance company that offers different lines will use a DIH to consolidate the data for presentation to users. “If you have health and life policies, you don’t care if [the company] has different mainframes,” Herzenstein says. “So they really need to work hard to bridge the gap between that infrastructure.”
Mainframes, like the IBM i server (which is colloquially called a mainframe by those outside of the IT business even though it’s not actually an IBM System Z, MVS, or S/390 mainframe), aren’t going away. By moving data from mainframes and IBM i systems into a speedy DIH layer, organizations can get the benefits of digital transformation without touching the systems of record.
Gigaspaces isn’t the only vendor talking about DIHs. Oracle has been talking up DIHs, as has IBM, which offers what it calls an IBM Z DIH that is based on IMDG technology from the Apache Ignite project. GridGain, the company behind Apache Ignite, is also pushing the DIH concept as a way to unleash data from legacy assets for digital transformation.
“This infrastructure is not going to change overnight,” Herzenstein says. “They’re not going to go away tomorrow or next year or in ten years. The systems of record, they are still here. They are highly available. But you don’t want to add huge amounts of transactions to them. This decoupling is really the way to make this happen on both ends.”