While Cast Iron Systems Inc. emphasizes the uniqueness of its appliance-based approach to business process integration in its Application Router, companies will find much more to like in the capable, easy-to-use tools provided to build and edit integrations. eWEEK Labs found the appliances Cast Iron Studio 2.3.5 updated tool set contains some of the easiest-to-use business integration tools we have seen. Studio, the main development interface for the Cast Iron Application Router, does not skimp on capabilities to offer this usability. It is also one of the first integration development tools weve tested that lets us easily import existing business orchestrations, as well as import orchestrations saved as BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) files.Although we were more impressed with Cast Iron Studio than with the main Application Router itself, there is plenty of value in the appliance approach to managing business processes and integrations. Weve never experienced much trouble installing server-based software for managing processes, but the Cast Iron Application Router trumps even this simplicity with a basic plug-in-and-go setup.A production implementation of the product, Cast Iron Application Router 1000, is priced at $75,000. The company also offers the developer-oriented Application Router 250, which is priced at $20,000. The appliance shipped in November. Like any good router, the Cast Iron Application Router essentially handles the movement of datain this case, ensuring that business processes integrate properly with applications and data sources. The appliances excellent standards support includes all key Web services and XML formats, as well as legacy formats such as EDI (electronic data interchange). The Application Router supports several connection protocols, including standard Internet connections and secure encrypted Internet connections, database integration, and direct connections to enterprise applications such as SAP AGs SAP. The router supports IBMs WebSphere MQ series, but wed like to see more message queue support such as standard JMS (Java Message Service) and support for other third-party messaging products. The product has capable monitoring and reporting features and let us track jobs via a browser management interface as they moved through the router. We also liked the ease with which we could get data on job processes. Our favorite part of the Application Router is the bundled Cast Iron Studio. If the Studio wasnt so tied to the appliance, we would likely recommend it as an easy-to-use, stand-alone business integration environment. The Studio has a clean, intuitive interface from the start. We could create data connectors, define data mappings, create business orchestrations and deploy processes to the router. Each interface was among the cleanest weve seen for this type of tool. We could quickly add any document or connection type needed and load it into our integrations. Probably our key complaint about Studio is its lack of some advanced power-user options. Also, even though the Studio is based on the cross-platform Eclipse development environment, it is supported only on Windows systems. Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.