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Case Study: Integrating Benefitfocus' JMS and .NET Architectures

03.28.2010
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Benefitfocus is the largest healthcare benefits provider in the US.  They sell a wide array of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings for health insurance providers and for other sections of the healthcare industry.  When Benefitfocus built a new offering, they used Java and .NET applications that needed to be integrated through their BizTalk and Java Messaging Service (JMS) servers.  After struggling with an open source solution, they found JNBridge's Adapter for BizTalk.  

JNBridge's core offering, JNBridge Pro, requires some knowledge of JMS and .NET that some of their customers don't have.  JNBridge also provides adapters for .NET and BizTalk that condense the integration of .NET and JMS infrastructure into a single step without having to touch the JMS server.  "We went from downloading the evaluation copy into full production in just 45 days," said Benefitfocus CTO Don Taylor.  The adapters work with any vendor's JMS server and have support for:

  • Point-to-Point (queues)
  • Publish/subscribe (topics)
  • JMS security
  • Durable subscriptions
  • Text, byte, and map messages
  • Message selectors/filters
  • Local JMS transactions

Benefitfocus recently built a new SaaS offering that was eventually wired up using JNBridge's BizTalk adapter.  The new SaaS offered web-based enrollment and billing on the client side that needed to connect to the insurance carriers on the back side.  "They needed to connect a very disparate set of technologies," said Wayne Citrin, CTO of JNBridge.  The front end was built using Java-based technologies, but they had a BizTalk server integration hub at the center of their infrastructure.  

The insurance carriers and other trading partners connected to Benefitfocus' new BizTalk infrastructure through web services or FTP.  Architects at Benefitfocus wanted the enrollment application to publish messages to a JMS queue, but they needed a reliable method for BizTalk to consume messages and support Java and .NET communications, and they needed it fast.  With only two months remaining in its software release cycle, the architects at Benefitfocus couldn't spend several months working with an open source project.  

Unlike most of JNBridge's customers,  Benefitfocus created this polyglot architecture by design for the new offerings.  The majority of JNBridge customers are trying to integrate legacy applications with new technologies, or connect the infrastructures of two companies that are conducting a merger. 



There are few (if any) plug-and-play solutions like JNBridge's products on the market.  If an organization wants to hook up Java and .NET infrastructure, they can try to roll their own connector, use an open source project, or use JNBridge's connectors.  The first option requires a great deal of painstaking work, and the second option involves fixing a lot of bugs.  Web services are another option, but they can be slow and they're not fine grained.  Benefitfocus, like many other customers, just wanted a quick and easy solution that worked out-of-box without having to fix the tool.  

Rolling your own solution for successfully connecting .NET/BizTalk and Java/JMS architectures would be quite a feat because JNBridge has spent nine years perfecting a solution for this problem space.  Even with JNBridge Pro, there's a good deal of knowledge required and information to gather.  "In some ways, writing an adapter is kind of a Black Art - there's not a lot of documentation out there on how to do it," said Citrin.  "It's not a skill set they [customers] have or really want to have.  We've done the heavy lifting so that the customers don't have to do these rather specialized things to solve their business problems."

Benefitfocus now uses the JNBridge BizTalk adapter in other application integration tasks as well.  Today, Benefitfocus gives employers, health carriers, and consumers a single web-based platform for benefit shopping, enrollment, management, and industry standard data exchange.  Their technology is aimed at simplifying or eliminating paper processes.  With the help of technologies like JNBridge's adapters, software companies like Benefitfocus are making healthcare more efficient and affordable.