Abraham H. Maslow said, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." Maslow might well have been talking about database professionals (myself included) who look at every problem from a data architect's perspective. I can admit that I've done some goofy things with T-SQL to avoid leaving the safe, cozy confines of the database world I know and love. But in the world of Microsoft-based data-integration technologies, it's becoming increasingly hard to know which type of hammer to use. (Go to http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=D968:7B3DB for a list of more than a dozen different types of hammers.) In the good old days, data integration was simple. We had flat files, bulk copy program (bcp), and the relational engine. You could liven things up and throw in some ASCII, EBCDIC, or binary file representations, maybe even mix in some fixed-length vs. variable-length file data. Then Microsoft introduced DTS and many other cool data-integration tools.

Today, it takes 17 pages to sift through all the server products and 3-letter acronyms to understand Microsoft integration technologies. I know this because I've read a new 17-page white paper called "Understanding Microsoft Integration Technologies." The white paper is a collaborative effort from the following teams: Microsoft Message Queue Services (MSMQ), Microsoft Indigo, SQL Server 2005 Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Service Broker (SSB), SQL Server replication, Host Integration Server, and Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000. The document describes the core-use cases for these technologies and practical guidance about when to use which technology.

I won't attempt to steal thunder from the white paper. It's a great read and I recommend it to all data architects, or aspiring data architects. Getting the paper will be the tricky part. The only way I know to get to the paper is by navigating through the blog entry of one of the document's authors. You'll find easy-to-follow instructions at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=D963:7B3DB . I could have waited until the document cleared Microsoft legal to recommend it to you, but that can take a while and this is hot-off-the-presses information that should be enjoyed now rather than later.