Cast Iron puts application integration in a box
Cast Iron iA3000 appliance simplifies EAI -- perhaps too much
Designing workflows is also a graphical process: drag activities from the toolbox onto the design pane and configure and map each activity according to its checklist. As you select each task in the checklist, you see the appropriate design form for that task, whether it’s a set of input boxes and radio buttons, or the graphical mapping. Be aware, however, that Cast Iron only supports sequential workflows.
Cast Iron Studio’s activity palette contains a basic assortment of transforms, logic, database actions, e-mail, ftp and http actions, Web services actions, and MQ and SAP actions. Users cannot add custom activities, though — again, a choice Cast Iron made to keep things simple.
More than one way to skin a cat
Most of the iA3000’s management dance can be done using the Web interface. The WMC will deploy; undeploy; start, stop, and monitor orchestrations; and also monitor the appliance hardware. From the CLI, you can issue any of about 100 commands to control or interrogate the device, or even drop down into a Linux shell if necessary.
The log page in WMC lists only orchestration error messages by default. It can be configured to provide additional detail, down to the debugging level. The iA3000 appliance can also be configured to send error messages to an e-mail address or a SNMP server. If you prefer, you can tail the log file from a Linux shell within a telnet session to the appliance, and watch everything in real time.
No matter what product you’re looking at, I recommend a three-step process for evaluating EAI software: screen for your required and desired end points, estimate costs, and evaluate capabilities and capacities. Because of its unique bundling of hardware and EAI software in an appliance, it’s a little simpler to estimate costs for Cast Iron than its competitors — it’s priced as a monthly lease for the entire bundle.
It’s also simpler to estimate capacity with Cast Iron, since the hardware is fixed. That fixed hardware, however, limits the scalability options to upgrading to a high-availability version of the appliance or adding more appliances.
In the end, the Cast Iron iA3000’s ease of setup and simplicity is something of a double-edged sword — it makes the iA3000 quick to deploy and relatively straightforward to use, but it also limits the feature set (no dashboard, sequential workflow support only). I feel the iA3000 is best suited for midsize companies with a business need to integrate their applications and limited IT developer resources with which to do so.