I was particularly impressed with Talend’s graphical development environment. It enables us to program complex interfaces with just a few mouse clicks. Not to mention multiple automation options. It is a stable solution that can be expanded to include various other components.Wolfram Zimmermann, systems analyst in the IT department of the Attorney-General’s Office in Berlin
The Attorney-General’s Office in Berlin oversees investigating criminal justice bodies across Berlin. It is responsible for supervising the investigative authorities under its jurisdiction (state and district attorneys in Berlin). It also handles proceedings in which the Higher Regional Court (known in Berlin for historical reasons as the “Kammergericht”) is either the court of first instance (in particular for offences that threaten Germany’s national or international security) and in cases where the Higher Regional Court is required to rule on appeals against judgments passed by local and district courts. Today, cutting-edge information technology (IT) plays a key role in law enforcement. Powerful hardware, innovative software and numerous interfaces between different systems enable authorities to exchange data as effectively as possible in the fight against crime.
In Berlin, investigating criminal justice bodies have been using a system called MESTA as their main IT application since the start of 2012. MESTA was developed by the company Dataport in the German city of Kiel and stands for multi-state application for public prosecution. It is currently used by a network of seven states in Germany. MESTA comprises numerous modules used by public prosecutors, court clerks, registrars and court officials. The IT department of the Attorney-General’s Office employs a team of around twenty people dedicated to infrastructure management, hotline support, training and application development. The majority of applications are developed by external suppliers and the application development unit is responsible for ensuring that these different applications interoperate seamlessly. A lot of this work involves developing and maintaining interfaces between MESTA and external partners such as Germany’s Federal Central Register, police bodies and the courts.
Systems analyst Wolfram Zimmermann is head of application development in Berlin. In 2011, he started looking for a way to simplify and standardize interface development around MESTA: “Transferring data between MESTA’s various modules is easy. But we need to interface with extremely heterogeneous partner systems. Each one has to be linked up to MESTA individually and we simply don’t have the option of adapting the partner systems. The Central Vehicle Register office in Flensburg – which records penalty points accumulated by German drivers is a prime example of this,” states Zimmermann.
Finding a suitable solution proved surprisingly easy, however, as Zimmermann and his team were able to draw on their positive experiences with Talend’s integration platform. In 2011, they had used it to successfully implement a large-scale data migration project from two legacy databases (Adabas and MySQL) to an Oracle database for MESTA. “We were able to complete this migration project without even having to tender the job simply by using Talend Open Studio for Data Integration. This open-source solution saved us a lot of time, money and effort,” continues Zimmermann. Although the actual migration could only be carried out on public holidays, all data had been pumped into the new system by the deadline date of January 1, 2012.
The Attorney-General’s Office called on Talend partner CIMT AG to support its migration project. During training for the project, it quickly became clear that Talend software could also help Zimmermann and his team with their interfacing issues (which also had to be resolved by the same deadline). This was no easy task, given the sheer volume of data in question. Every day, for example, the police alone transfer around 3,000 files to the Attorney-General’s Office, containing information on incidents such as burglaries, traffic offences and violent crime.
“Once we had an overview of the external partners we needed to interface with, the execution phase proved surprisingly simple. Talend allows us to create interfaces relatively easily – usually without programming! We also only needed one employee to do the work,” recalls Zimmermann. Supported by CIMT AG, this employee started to automate interfaces in the summer of 2011. The whole project ran very smoothly. One of the few challenges involved changing the interface server landscape in one single step. The team migrated from a mainframe environment (with TSO and JCL) to Windows Server 2008. “And this also went without a hitch,” explains Zimmermann.
One example shows how easy it was for Zimmermann’s team to create interfaces. Police data, for example, is integrated during a multi-step process. During the first step, data from the police is loaded to a backup folder on the local Windows server via a secure FTP connection. The data is then transferred automatically to an incoming directory defined by MESTA. Once this one done, a MESTA job starts to read the data into the database. A return code for the job is requested and confirmed during this process. Almost all interface jobs follow the same pattern. If necessary, Talend also transforms the data in an interim step. The Talend Administration Console (TAC) automates all interfaces through its job scheduling functionality. All jobs run on a daily basis – also on weekends, with some running once a day and others up to ten times every 24 hours.
The interfaces themselves are created by Talend as executable Java files. The intuitive user interface practically eliminates the need for writing program codes – drag & drop generally suffices. The Attorney-General’s Office is currently using Talend Data Integration with five licenses for its interface project. “I was particularly impressed with Talend’s graphical development environment. It enables us to program complex interfaces with just a few mouse clicks. Not to mention multiple automation options. It is a stable solution that can be expanded to include various other components,” states Wolfram Zimmermann. “Talend has become a firm fixture for us following the migration and interface project. So whenever we face new integration challenges, we always check first whether we can get the job done with Talend.”
And the next project is already in the pipeline. Dataport is currently transitioning MESTA to a Java environment. From 2013 onwards, all interfaces will be available as Web services and will no longer be started as batch jobs. With Talend on board, the Attorney-General’s Office has everything it needs to step up to this new challenge.