KnowNow shows off integration agility
KnowNow Enterprise Editon's lightweight, flexible system brings apps together -- if you can afford it
In the late '90s, CIOs bought lots of ERP and CRM systems and built out Web applications for everything from managing 401K updates to online retailing. Now, IT shops are trying to meet the demands of integrating those apps.
Integration is an expensive task and traditional approaches generally require large, upfront planning exercises and monolithic projects. KnowNow 3 Enterprise Edition takes a different approach to the integration problem: a loosely coupled, HTTP-based integration platform that's lightweight and agile.
KnowNow is built around a concept called "event integration layers," which creates layers of
data that correspond to individual integration projects and are easy to tack up and tear down as needed. This model allows integration projects to be done iteratively, with each successive layer building on the last.
KnowNow 3 Enterprise Edition is a solid platform that is conceptually simple, thanks to the Web-server feel and HTTP underpinnings, yet it offers real help with tough integration problems. That particular combination makes KnowNow an enterprise integration contender.
Data Delivery Dynamo
KnowNow 3 Enterprise Edition has two major components: LiveServer, an HTTP-based event engine, and LiveConnectors, adaptors that connect various applications in real time to LiveServer. Two examples of connectors are LiveSheet, a plug-in for Excel that delivers data to and from the spreadsheet to LiveServer, and LiveBrowser, a real-time data-delivery mechanism for Internet Explorer and Netscape that does not rely on Java applets, ActiveX, or other plug-ins. These connectors are optional -- anything that can speak HTTP can talk to LiveServer.
LiveServer is a breeze to install: The wizard walks you through all important decisions to get you running. I installed LiveServer on a Windows 2000 platform, but Windows XP, Linux, and Solaris are also supported. The connectors are just as easy to install to LiveServer and their appropriate applications.
After LiveServer and the connectors are up, you use the system administrator console to configure the system. As configured on install, the system works well for testing and pilot projects, but like most enterprise applications, production use requires configuring the server for high reliability, greater security, and so on.
There is a nice side benefit to doing the configuration, too: The console is built on KnowNow's connector technology, so you get a feel for KnowNow works just by watching the display update live in the browser.
The console provides a rich set of tools for configuration, user management, event queue management, and log monitoring. Reporting is weak in the console, with few historical, trending, or statistical views, but that's probably less important in a system like LiveServer than the server's ability to report required information to the organization's operational management system, which LiveServer does support.
I began my tests by connecting several spreadsheets so that cells on one sheet are automatically published into any subscribing sheets. This is an example of a simple project that can grow incrementally to eventually encompass the integration of back-end systems and front-end displays.