Feature | June 10, 2007 | Ryan Hiett

Best-of-Breed in a SOA World

Can you have a solution that’s both single-source and best-of-breed?

In the ever-changing and complicated process of integrating information systems, it’s easy to see how buying everything from a single vendor can have its perks.
“Chances are they’ve already done all the integration and validation testing,” said Steve Deaton, marketing director for Viztek. Another benefit is through pricing, he added, along with implementation timing. “No matter what, unless a best-of-breed situation has integrated your exact two solutions that you’re being provided for, you’re ultimately going to be in a live testing environment,” Deaton said. “With a single-source provider, all that’s going to be done. There’s less of a risk.”
For others, not only is best-of-breed worth serious consideration — over the past five to 10 years Kobi Margolin, director of Marketing for Neurostar Inc., has seen an upward trend toward the practice. “Integration has gone a long way,” he said. “Five or 10 years ago, standards hardly existed and integration was a major reason to go with a single source. I’ve found that the ones who are generally more progressive in their thinking are willing to take the risks of best-of-breed.”
There are arguments on both sides regarding cost — some say single vendors give better deals when selling an entire package, while others say buying the individual systems allow more flexibility in how much to spend between different applications.
SOA bringing the best of both worlds
Is it too much to ask to have the best of both worlds – single vendor and best-of-breed? Deaton and Margolin both say it’s possible with a single-source SOA.
Deaton says one of best sellers is an integrated best-of-breed suite. “On one front we’re a sole source provider of software because we write our own PACS and we write our own RIS,” he said. “But the majority of our gross sales is from selling the Kodak Point of Care with the Orex CR units. We’ve selected these units as a best-of-breed for our market to deploy with our software.”
Margolin says Neurostar offers PACS as a service rather than an application. The company moved into that architecture with an eye on what Margolin calls “the underserved market of PACS.”
The solution services smaller hospitals, imaging centers — any number of specialties that do imaging on the side. “We thought SOA could really address these segments much better,” Margolin said.
SOA architecture can be an “interesting mix” between best-of-breed and single source, Margolin said.
“We built an IT infrastructure for small hospitals that have resource constraints because they didn’t have as much of a budget as their larger counterparts,” Margolin said. “With our service, we can pick up their hosting service and open them up to work with physicians or professional service providers from around the country.”
This promotes the possibility of both best-of-breed and single-source approaches.
Margolin noted, “This is because our SOA is Web- and standards-based, and it tends to relieve you as a customer from geographical limitations that prior architectures have had.”

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