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Resources: Creating Connectable Applications

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A bright future for application vendors

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Innovation Platform

For application vendors, InterSystems Ensemble® is more than just an integration platform. It is an innovationplatform that promises a bright future.

Ensemble will enable you to create a new class of applications that are “connectable”, capable of interoperating with your customers’ systems and business processes. And by embedding Ensemble in your existing applications you can rapidly enhance them, without rewriting, to transform your product portfolio into an integrated suite.

Here are a few examples of how software companies are making their applications – and their businesses – more valuable with Ensemble:

  • A leading provider of newspaper publishing software embedded Ensemble in its flagship product and created a must-have upgrade for its customers and prospects. Its competitors cannot match the new Ensemble-based capabilities that enable newspaper chains to freely share and repurpose information and deliver it in whatever format is needed.
  • A software vendor providing medical imaging solutions enhanced a product with Ensemble technology and created a breakthrough application for radiologists. The application uses Ensemble’s integration, workflow, database, and business rules engine to provide up to a 20% increase in radiologist productivity.
  • A group of entrepreneurial developers used Ensemble as their primary development and runtime environment to build a successful Web-based electronic data interchange service for supply chains. The company determined that by using Ensemble it took one-fifth the resources it would have taken to develop this sophisticated software in Java.

The comprehensive range of Ensemble technology, with its breakthrough unified architecture, will enable you to respond faster than competitors to new challenges and opportunities by:

  • Easily creating connectable applications for faster, lower-cost deployments and rapid interconnection with new systems and processes when customer requirements change
  • Enhancing existing applications with adaptable workflow, browser-based user interfaces, rules-based business processes, portals, Web services, and other new features – without rewriting
  • Easily converting separate applications in your portfolio into integrated suites
  • Enabling your customers to innovate by letting them rapidly modify business rules and workflow in an application, without programming, to support changing or new business processes

Enhance applications without rewriting them

Working with your existing development platforms and standards, Ensemble lets you rapidly enhance existing applications – without rewriting – by adding:

  • Rich Web interfaces
  • Messaging via an extensible enterprise service bus (ESB)
  • Business rules processing
  • Dashboards
  • Data transformation
  • Adaptable workflow
  • Web services and other service-oriented architecture technology
  • Business activity monitoring
  • Active Analytics
  • Out-of-the-box integration with the most popular applications, databases, and technologies
  • Business process orchestration

Using the advanced object technology found in InterSystems Caché® our high-performance database, Ensemble seamlessly combines best-of-breed integration functionality with a rapid application development environment and consistent, end-to-end management. Designed with today’s service-oriented and event-driven architectures in mind, Ensemble excels at quickly building and deploying new business solutions that can leverage the functionality of existing applications, orchestrate new business processes, integrate data from across an enterprise, and use analytics on structured and unstructured data to deliver insight at the point of action.

The new capabilities of your Ensemble-enriched applications will give you a competitive advantage by helping your customers meet their most pressing IT challenges, including:

  • Making applications and information widely accessible through a variety of channels, including mobile devices
  • Collecting and aggregating information from disparate sources into a single, comprehensive view
  • Automating business processes, including easily modifiable business rules to control process execution, and human workflow
  • Achieving data consistency across multiple applications and databases

Case study

Ensemble enables a breakthrough application for radiologists

Challenge: Eliminate productivity roadblocks for radiologists.
Innovation: Enhance product to give radiologists a single interface for managing a complex workflow and data from multiple vendors’ applications.

Radiologists have complex workflows that require interaction with multiple applications. Study requests are managed by the radiology information system (RIS). The images to be analyzed are managed by a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). Dictating a report, checking the result, and routing it back to the requesting physician usually require another separate system.

As radiology centers grow and work with an increasing number of healthcare facilities sending information for review and diagnosis, the productivity of each radiologist inevitably decreases. This happens because they have a growing number of interfaces and applications to sort through.

Integrated Modular Systems Inc. (IMSI), a leading integrator of medical imaging and healthcare technology solutions, used Ensemble’s HL7 and DICOM integration, built-in human workflow, message storage, and business rules engine to build a solution, imsiVOICE-Interactive™ with OneList™, that changes the negative equation traditionally associated with radiology center growth. The application ties images from a PACS to current work requests and to patient information from the RIS, tracks images and issues a warning if the wrong image is being viewed, and attaches audio files and funnels them to transcribers or voice recognition software. When the radiologist reviews and approves the report, it automatically flows back to the requesting clinician.

“We have customers who are seeing as much as a 20 percent increase in radiologist productivity while error rates have been significantly reduced. This means a considerable improvement in the bottom line for radiology centers that are growing their business.”

John Mazur
President, IMSI

Ensemble’s innovations in developer and administrator productivity

Ensemble’s unique single-stack architecture includes all the technology needed to create connectable applications without having to first integrate multiple development and integration platforms. This fusion of previously independent technologies has only a single, rapid learning curve and dramatically reduces your time-to-market and costs. At the same time, it lowers management overhead by enabling you to rapidly tailor your applications, without coding, using business process definitions, rules, and workflows for specific markets or customers.

The integration platform that includes rapid development technology

Developer productivity gains and dividends: Ensemble’s consistent object representation of diverse programming models, programming interfaces, and data formats enables the use of Ensemble’s single development environment across all aspects of the product – from messaging to process orchestration to active analytics. This unified graphical, XML, and code-based development environment simplifies and accelerates modeling and automating of business processes, and it enables extremely rapid service-oriented development of composite applications.

Unlike products which are focused on a particular infrastructure, such as J2EE or .NET, Ensemble provides equal support for both, and is easily extensible for future object models and technology frameworks. This approach enables you to incorporate your applications into customer IT infrastructures without time-consuming integration efforts, massive middleware rollouts, or costly replacement of existing systems.

Case study

Development and Integration Converge

CHALLENGE: Focus development resources on creating superior software without getting bogged down in the integration technology required for deployment in extremely complex IT environments.
INNOVATION: Rapid application development and integration with InterSystems Ensemble.

QuadraMed, a leading vendor of enterprise software solutions for hospitals and integrated healthcare delivery networks, produces a wide range of clinical, revenue cycle, patient self-service, identity resolution, and scheduling applications. The company’s product strategy includes a foundational role for Ensemble. QuadraMed® first used Ensemble as the platform for the QuadraMed Smart Identity eXchange, an enterprise master person index and federated identity resolution solution for multi-entity integrated health systems, and health information exchanges. Using Ensemble allowed QuadraMed to focus on rapid development of the core business logic that makes Smart Identity eXchange a compelling product, and to bring it to market quickly.

Within the suite of QuadraMed products, Ensemble handles critical functions including messaging operations, business process orchestration, rules processing, alert handling, exposure of functional services as Web services, and integration with other applications and databases in customer environments. QuadraMed’s developers appreciate that Ensemble is a single, unified development, integration, and runtime environment that supports the high-performance and reliability of their applications.

“Ensemble is a strategic platform for QuadraMed’s #1 in KLAS, EMPI solution. It is helping us to create new solutions faster, streamline customer business processes, and speed up implementation and integration at our customer sites.”

Tom Easterly
Senior Vice President, QuadraMed

Composite applications: When used for projects that incorporate multiple systems based on different development and integration technologies, Ensemble’s advantages become even more apparent. Ensemble’s object technology and repository provide a consistent, unified view of the diverse systems, applications, and services in the solution. This enables you to simplify composite applications for your customers by applying Ensemble messaging, business rules processing, workflow, alerting, and Active Analytics consistently across all the disparate systems involved.

Enterprise service bus/messaging: Ensemble’s comprehensive and consistent architecture delivers breakthrough time-to-market for messaging or complex integration and development projects, and dramatically reduces the management overhead associated with loosely coupled, service-oriented solutions.

High performance, reliability of deployed solutions, and development and management efficiencies are the hallmarks of the Ensemble enterprise service bus. In demanding healthcare environments, for example, Ensemble customers report that application integration projects are completed nearly three times faster than with other products, and that message processing is twice as fast.

Business rules: For integrated systems using Ensemble’s enterprise service bus, non-programmers such as business analysts and support personnel can use Ensemble’s rules engine to configure and change message routing and filtering rules in a matter of minutes. This reduces the cost of making such changes, and it frees programmers to focus instead on new projects – reducing backlogs and delivering value sooner.

Service-oriented architecture: Ensemble can act as a producer or consumer of SOAP-based and RESTful Web services. As a producer, Ensemble can present any of the functions represented in its repository as a Web service. As a consumer, Ensemble identifies external Web services and stores their object representations in its repository, where they can be managed and incorporated into solutions as easily as local functionality.

Case study

Developing on Ensemble leaves more time to innovate

CHALLENGE: Success of a new software product was at risk because its third-party integration engine kept failing during customer trials.
INNOVATION: Embed a rock-solid integration engine with a reputation for high-performance and ease of management.

A new software product from 3M Health Information Systems, the 3M™ 360 Encompass™ System, had all the right capabilities, and was being released at the right time, to fill an important need in healthcare organizations. But the product’s third-party integration engine was not meeting 3M’s expectations. 3M needed a better integration solution, fast.

Ensemble had clear appeal to 3M with its reputation for performance, reliability, rapid development, and advanced management. But first it had to pass the test of success at 3M’s customer reference site. In 45 days from the start of working with Ensemble, the 3M 360 Encompass System was in production use at the customer site, with flawless performance. Since then, when problems have come up, Ensemble’s Visual Trace quickly located the issue – typically in source systems – enabling rapid resolution. With less time spent troubleshooting, 3M engineers now have more time to spend on product enhancement.

“The same issues that took minutes to find and resolve in Ensemble took weeks with our legacy integration engine.”

Randy Thomsen
Developer, 3M

End-to-end management

Enterprise integration solutions can be the most difficult type of systems to manage, because they link disparate application components, often spanning multiple hardware platforms, operating systems, and technology frameworks. Ensemble’s built-in, persistent message repository, its rules engine, and a well-designed, easy-to-use management portal reduce administration and maintenance costs, and enhance the value of projects.

Ensemble provides complete reporting and analysis capabilities for message contents that flow through the solution, and operational statistics about the solution itself. Access to the message repository and management reports, and graphical troubleshooting tools, helps keep Ensemble-based solutions always available.

Because Ensemble delivers its advanced capabilities through a single technology stack, not a cobbled-together suite of products, management of Ensemble-based systems is uniquely coherent and efficient.

Reliability and quality of service: The loss of data integrity in an information system is unacceptable, and so is its associated cost. The same applies when critical data is not available when needed. Ensemble’s high-performance, persistent message repository enables rapid, reliable, and guaranteed messaging. This increases quality of service by ensuring data integrity, and by guaranteeing that vital information is promptly and always available. Cost savings accrue by avoiding the time it would take to resend messages, check and test the system, and involving application specialists to help identify the problem.

Troubleshooting: Ensemble provides intuitive, browser-based, end-to-end configuration and management capabilities. These features enable rapid problem identification, isolation, and resolution from a central console in any secure location. Ensemble Visual Trace, graphical dashboards, and alert mechanisms provide immediate notification of existing or potential problems. Immediate awareness of developing problems, and the ability to rapidly diagnose and correct them, avoids the high cost of system downtime.

Security: Ensemble establishes strong protection of enhanced applications and integrated systems, while not hindering use, through:

  • Support for WS-Security, WS-Policy, and related standards.
  • Authentication through multiple modes including LDAP, Kerberos, operating system login, two-factor authentication and Ensemble native login.
  • Authorization based on role membership.
  • Auditing information maintained in a customizable, tamper-resistant log.
  • Encryption of data in its repository and other files using the AES algorithm and 256-bit keys. It encrypts data in motion using SSL or TLS methods.

Ensemble architecture

Conceptually, Ensemble is a layered product built on the core capabilities of its SQL-compliant, high-performance object repository, object abstraction, enterprise service bus, and development and management technology. In operation, whether deployed locally, in the Cloud, or as an “Integration Platform as a Service,” Ensemble is a single, unified technology, with one consistent user interface and one short learning curve.

Unique to Ensemble is a complete set of business process management functionality seamlessly integrated with development and integration capabilities. This state-of-the-art fusion makes the creation of connectable and composite applications as natural as creating a standalone application. Composition and orchestration, workflow, user-modifiable business rules, portals, and business activity monitoring and active analytics become a natural part of your development discipline. You concentrate on creating superior business logic that sets your offering apart; Ensemble takes care of fitting your application into customer business processes. When those processes change, customers can use Ensemble business rules and other configuration settings to adapt, without needing you to change application code.

Fundamental to Ensemble’s functionality and performance are its object abstraction facility, and embedded, high-performance object repository. Abstraction technology hides the nature, variety, and complexity of the underlying interfaces and data that are part of integrated systems. The object repository supports persistence of all messages passing through integrated systems, plus transaction integrity, event logging and tracing, and high-performance transactional bit-map-indexed data retrieval. The repository is key to Ensemble’s high-speed message processing, and management and reuse of solution components.

Case study

Liberate information from enterprise data “silos”

CHALLENGE: Enable transparent information flow from disparate sources within a news organization for delivery in different media and contexts.
INNOVATION: Enrich newspaper publishing applications with integration capabilities.

Digital Technology International (DTI), a leading vendor of newspaper publishing software, is committed to helping its clients compete successfully in the modern news dissemination business. This means going far beyond paper and ink. DTI customers need to pull information from a number of disparate sources, and deliver it via a number of different media. DTI found an answer to this difficult problem by enriching its applications with Ensemble.

The result is a new publishing solution called “Liquid Media™”, built around Ensemble’s connection, object technology, and data transformation capabilities. It allows information to be drawn from multiple databases and other information sources, at different newspapers in a chain, and automatically assume the correct format for multiple delivery systems – from newsprint to mobile phones. The solution frees data from isolated “silos” of existing systems without requiring a standardized data format. The Ensemble-enriched solution has opened new opportunities and given the software vendor more options to grow its business.

“With Ensemble, DTI has been able to create a whole new class of modern, connectable applications in an amazingly short period of time.”

Byron Oldham
VP of Engineering, DTI

Rise Quickly to New Levels of Success

With pressures on your business growing every day – to satisfy the changing requirements of current customers, to ward off threats from competitors, and to win new customers – Ensemble will help you raise your business to higher levels by delivering innovative solutions faster.

Ensemble’s technical and business benefits include:

  • The ability to address the needs of new users and markets without changing application code or creating customer-specific interfaces
  • Higher customer satisfaction through rapid tailoring of applications using business process definitions, rules, and workflows for specific markets or customers
  • Faster implementations
  • The ability to compete successfully in the service-oriented world with automatic service-enablement of application functionality
  • Ease of management
  • Higher return on development investment

With your Ensemble-enriched applications, you will gain a strategic position in customer organizations by owning and orchestrating key business processes. And your customers will gain:

  • IT flexibility with support for multiple infrastructure technologies
  • The ability to rapidly incorporate your applications into multiple business processes
  • Lower total cost-of-ownership as the time and effort required for application integration is dramatically reduced
  • Greater insight into business processes through Ensemble’s Active Analytics and business intelligence capabilities
  • Easier access to applications through Ensemble-enabled browser interfaces

Case study

Rapidly create new business opportunities

CHALLENGE: Create a fast, flexible, cost-effective, and non-invasive way to bring trading partners into an electronic supply chain, even if the partner is not electronically enabled.
INNOVATION: Develop and deploy a Software as a Service offering that rapidly automates any-to-any communication of business data.

The founders of OmPrompt, a UK-based Integration Service Provider, saw opportunity in addressing the shortcomings of electronic data interchange (EDI) in supply chain applications. With only 30 percent of the potential market actually using EDI at the time, OmPrompt set out to make it viable for the other 70 percent. Most communication in this group uses voice, FAX, spreadsheet, or flat files, with interchange requiring extensive manual intervention to map the data formats between sender and receiver.

OmPrompt used Ensemble to develop a patented message analysis and classification technology. The software employs artificial intelligence techniques to analyze sample messages (data, voice, or FAX) from partners and create corresponding Ensemble structures for holding and manipulating the actual data. The technology also builds a reference database, maintained within Ensemble, of all derived message structures to aid recognition and automated processing of new message types. The solution uses the Ensemble rules engine and business processes orchestration to address variability between customers, and is delivered as an Internet-based service.

“Ensemble allowed us to develop a full and viable application when all our resources were constrained. We would have required approximately five times the resources to develop an equivalent solution in Java.”

Brian Bolam
CEO, OmPrompt