Too much integration

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 8, 2010, 11:56 PM | comments: 0

That's a Duran Duran song, right? Meh, if I have to explain it, it's not funny.

I had a breakthrough at work today (actually, I was at home, but whatever) around this integration project that has been kicking my ass on and off for the last two weeks, when it would come back and stuff would be broken. It was starting to suck my will to live. I suppose there are some obvious take-aways from the experience, namely to bother people more until you have what you need. I'm still trying to feel that out at work. It's like, I don't wanna be the guy who bitches and moans all of the time, but I also have to accept that there are things I'm just not going to get done without help whilst swimming around in 80,000 lines of code.

Integration stuff is either really cool or a pain in the ass. I got to do several integration projects while at ICOM, which is not surprising since the business runs on collaborating with a metric-assload of third parties and internal systems. I liked all but one of those projects. The big wins all shared some very obvious characteristics:

  • They had well-defined, well-documented interfaces. That seems obvious, right? Some of those systems we owned, but the third parties would tend to have such a huge customer base that they had to get it right. It's like magic when you call out and get something back.
  • Each had a series of excellent environments to test with. Dev, test, QA... all able to bubble up through the chain pretty quickly.
  • Minimal configuration issues. Things that are not fragile tend to not get bogged down in setting them up. With Web services, it's not hard to roll an integration project because you just point your junk there and go. It's a lot trickier when you have black box code libraries or some weird and proprietary thing to hit.

I was always amazed at how easy it was to integrate pretty much anything with Amazon, for example. That was the first time I really "got it" when it came to using services, before "SOA" became a trendy acronym. Fast forward to today, and I still scratch my head when I look at Facebook. It's not well thought out at all.

On a side note, you may have seen that we (well, people in the same division) released an RC for Visual Studio 2010 out in the MSDN downloads today. Everyone else will get it Wednesday. People are really excited about it from what I gather on the Twitter. I honestly haven't used it yet, because I just haven't been able to jump into early adopter mode. But I'm downloading now (10 mbits, finally!) and will play with it this week.


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