Mergers, acquisitions, growth, downsizing: as global markets are forced to navigate their way amid the deeper, discernable effects of unavoidable financial turmoil, IT systems are inevitably and intrinsically affected.

As companies merge, acquire new applications, and build their IT platforms by incorporating disparate applications with legacy systems, information systems are becoming increasingly heterogeneous, complex, and scattered.

Consequently data integration tools, which enable the combining of data from different sources to provide the user with a unified view, have become indispensable. Enterprise IT departments looking to properly manage the flows of data across the information system understand the need for a clear and reliable system. Businesses able to adapt in a flexible, agile manner are far more likely to survive and prosper than those who flounder amid aging and irrelevant systems.

The recent spate of fragmented rescues confirms the need to find flexible solutions to corporate collapses and raises huge technology issues. In business, IT is often not just an enabler, but can provide the vital “edge” that can translate to competitive advantage. In particular, with regards to businesses that thrive mostly on the collection, investment, and distribution of funds, the systems that track these processes are the lifeblood. There is never room for glitches in the IT department, and especially not within the urgent context of an emergency merger.

While switching to a single system would save costs, implementation of new strategies of this kind can delay processes for insurmountable lengths of time. Alternative models of software deployment, such as Software as a Service (SaaS), and the need for interoperability with partners, customers, providers, etc., also have an important impact on data integration requirements.

The adoption of open source software, specifically with regards to data integration, can be a beneficial panacea to the otherwise daunting prospect of streamlining IT systems. The ethos at the core of the open source movement: freedom, collaboration, and transparency, exemplify and epitomise the tenets that are increasingly being viewed as the only way to approach the future of IT requirements.

Due to economic factors, it is possible that there will be a declining investment in new applications, despite increased need for data integration technology. Integration consumes a significant portion of the IT budget and is coming under heavier scrutiny as a cost to control. Fortunately, there are open source products in this market capable of supplying the much-needed automation.

Open source data integration tools can provide the cost advantages of hand-coding with the productivity advantages of traditional data integration software. They are established in the developer tools market which has been the traditional stronghold of open source software.

Open source tools can automate and maintain tasks formerly requiring manual scripts, and the existing skills of the IT implementation team easily transfer to an open source offering without significant up-front fees.

As business tempos speed up, real-time and nearly real-time operational data integration projects will prevail over bulk transfer projects. Although software companies are trying to provide unified integration solution packages, the data integration needs for most enterprises are so complex that they often need to multiply the number and nature of integration software products they use. Using open source and commercial solutions in combination is very common: the two can coexist on the same platform. Open source solutions are often complementary to an existing proprietary solution that cannot address a specific need.

Many enterprises are now considering open source solutions, not just for one-time projects, but also for their ongoing mission-critical processes, to replace or complement their expensive existing solutions. Open source solutions are a real alternative to the proprietary world. Key players have made major strides toward improving the usability and friendliness of open source technologies, traditionally a weak spot for these applications.

In just a few short years, open source has evolved from something “geeky” into an enterprise-ready solution. Today, open source solutions are sufficiently feature-rich to meet complex user requirements.
Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

• Free Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

• Source Code

The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form.

• Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

• No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

• No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavour

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavour.

• Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

• License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

• License Must Not Restrict Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

It is a common misconception that control of the source code is important for users of open source software. Most users today understand that open source solutions are as mature as their proprietary counterparts and, therefore, don’t feel the need to enhance the code themselves.

The results of a survey conducted by Talend of 1013 open-source technology users clearly show that open source data integration solutions are mature enough for mission-critical enterprise use in every arena. While the advantages of open source over proprietary software are obvious in the response distribution for certain key domains, in most areas open source is as powerful as its proprietary counterparts.

Open source products are stable and continually evolving to meet market requirements. Their total cost of ownership is significantly better than proprietary solutions and users confirm the ease of use and performance of these products. Open source data integration is indeed enterprise ready and commercially viable.

Bertrand Diard is CEO Talend, a leading open source data integration company.