Data Junction solves many data translation woes

IT managers have built scores of incompatible data storehouses in legacy applications, SQL databases and a myriad of other file formats. And that doesn’t count records residing in newer systems that support e-commerce partners or CRM (customer relationship management) systems. Now companies are stuck with mining and combining this data into meaningful information, often spending scarce IT programming resources to write custom data migration applications.

A more reliable and efficient approach is to use data translation tools such as Data Junction Integration Suite 7.5. The product includes visual tools for programmers to quickly automate translation steps and modify data formats. Version 7.5’s easy administration coupled with its low cost significantly lessens the pressure on IT groups performing translation projects, so that valuable IT resources can be freed up more quickly, enabling greater IT productivity.

Competing products include Sagent Technology’s Solution Platform, Computer Associates International’s Platinum DecisionBase and Ardent Software’s DataStage. Although all of these products are very capable, Data Junction is the only solution that doesn’t cost upward of US$200,000 and does not require an army of consultants to operate. With its reasonable price and significant enhancements, we rate Data Junction Integration Suite 7.5 Very Good.

Version 7.5 improves its functionality in a number of areas, making this solution even more appropriate for large-scale datamart implementations, Web integration projects, and migrations from legacy systems. It offers a more intuitive GUI and prebuilt conversion templates for even shorter design times. Additionally, this version translates more types of data, including Web pages, using second-generation XML tags.

Furthermore, a new multi-threaded version of the underlying conversion engine runs far faster than before, giving the efficient conversion of data from one source file to multiple targets simultaneously. Version 7.5 also handles real-time data streams, which is essential for electronic data interchange-to-XML translations. Plus, the Integration Engine provides Java and COM interfaces for embedding the core integration engine into applications without the need to purchase visual design modules.

Data roundhouse

We tested Data Junction Integration Suite by performing data translations among Microsoft’s Access 2000 and SQL 7 and Oracle’s Oracle8 i databases. In addition, we performed real-time translations from extranet to intranet sites to simulate a business-to-business data exchange with XML.

Data Junction’s Integration Studio modules define how data is shuttled among applications. For example, the Map Designer’s GUI let us quickly match tables in our Microsoft SQL 7 database to Access 2000 with drag-and-drop ease. This update also let us simultaneously map our source SQL 7 information to multiple, targeted file formats, including XML and older legacy formats. With this function IT managers can continue to support their existing back-office financial applications while bringing new e-commerce on-line, running on more scaleable database architectures.

Although Map Designer reads and displays existing data structures, IT managers may encounter other formats, such as fixed ASCII. In this case, we used the Record Layout Designer to change field names and sizes for both source and target files.

Enhancing B2B

If your B2B application efforts are being hindered by the various versions of XML, or if you need to aggregate data from unstructured sources, Data Junction should prove especially useful. We successfully tested two techniques to translate data from Web sites.

First, Integration Studio’s Map Designer supports second-generation XML schemata and DTDs (Document Type Definitions), so we were able to translate XML files as we worked with other databases. For example, after we pointed to a DTD file, Data Junction determined the arrangement of the associated XML file and then let us map the XML information from an extranet site to our SQL 7 database.

Second, the Content Extractor module works great if IT managers have Web data in irregular formats or want to process live information, such as news feeds. Once the software recognized the content of the XML file, we used Content Extractor’s visual interface to view the data fields and create rules that determined which fields would be translated. We then used the resulting scripts in Process Designer to automatically transform the captured files into different database formats, including WML (Wireless Markup Language) and SQL 7.

The engine that can

Although Integration Studio and Content Extractor run fine from desktop systems, IT managers will likely benefit from embedding the conversion functions into other applications. For this task, Data Junction 7.5’s Integration Engine was reworked to be more flexible and scaleable. For example, the new multithreaded design showed impressive speed improvements compared to Version 7.0.

From a Java application, we performed dynamic SQL table look-ups and converted Access 2000 databases at the same time, which happened about 200 per cent faster than with the past version on our single-CPU Windows NT server.

Overall, the only thing that might cause some IT groups to look elsewhere is that Integration Studio and Content Extractor run on only Microsoft Windows platforms. Still, that shouldn’t be a major concern.

Data Junction Integration Suite 7.5 reduces the need for custom coding, so developers can concentrate on mapping information from one database to another and building the transformation rules. And the shortened implementation time should give you a fast ROI.

Heck ([email protected]) is an InfoWorld contributing editor who spends his days building Web and intranet sites for Unisys in Blue Bell, Pa.

Review box:

Data Junction Integration Suite 7.5

Supplier: Data Junction Corp.

Cost: Integration Studio starts at US$870; Content Extractor starts at US$1,095; Integration Engine starts at US$2,250

Platforms: Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT 4.0, HP-UX, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris, and Linux

Pros: Intuitive visual design tools; includes Java, COM and C interfaces; can harvest data from any Web site; works with more than 100 database formats

Cons: Integration Studio and Content Extractor only available on Windows

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