Jitterbit streamlines data migrations
Straightforward graphical tools come close to satisfying "no expertise needed" promisesFollow @peterwayner
The company is offering some basic versions that interact with Web services from Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Amazon. One nice touch is that Jitterpaks can be distributed without sensitive information, a feature meant to make it simple for users to share the essential details of linking data sources without revealing their passwords.
Jitterpaks, incidentally, are limited to sources and targets built into the current version of Jitterbit: Web sites, FTP sites, Web services, and ODBC-compliant databases. I’m hoping that future versions will include the ability to move information in and out of other file types, including e-mail, Excel files, and PDFs.
There are limitations. Although Jitterbit can pull information from Web sites, there isn’t any way to parse the often arcane and annoying HTML surrounding the data. More expensive tools such as Kapow beat it easily at extracting data from complex Web sites, and some of the sophisticated reporting packages such as Cognos make it much simpler to extract information from complicated schemas in databases. Jitterbit’s user interface is not bad, but it’s not as simple as some of the more expensive reporting packages.
I tested the system by building several data pipes, a process that took only 15 minutes. I found that Jitterbit works well when you’re sticking to the beaten path: If you want to pull data from one machine, extract strings from one part of a data structure, and place them unchanged into another standard structure, it’s very simple. The challenges crop up if you want to make a few subtle changes to the data along the way, perhaps by changing a character set — the mechanism for actually tweaking the bits as they flow by just isn’t as robust.
Simple is as simple does
Even when I try to be as unbiased as possible, I still find Jitterbit’s claim that the tools can be used without coding experience hard to buy. There are too many data-transfer glitches caused by odd character sets, faulty database connections, SQL anomalies, and other annoying facts that only a programmer would know about.
But that doesn’t mean the tool won’t make both casual and serious programmers pretty happy with a set of straightforward tools for extracting data from one format and putting it into another. It does come quite close to satisfying the “no expertise necessary” promises, even though I feel that it really helps to be a programmer to get the most from a tool such as Jitterbit.
If your data pipe needs are more complex, watch the project for new features. The Jitterbit representative I spoke with said that many of the items I wanted would be arriving with Versions 1.1 and 1.2 — and that those versions would be appearing in “weeks,” not months or years. I expect Jitterbit’s solid framework will expand rapidly as they build it out.