In today’s competitive and dynamic business environment, applications such as Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence and Integrated Collaboration environments have become imperative for organizations that need to maintain their competitive advantage. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) is the process of linking these applications and others in order to realize financial and operational competitive advantages...more


Typically, an enterprise has existing legacy applications and databases and wants to continue to use them while adding or migrating to a new set of applications that exploit the Internet, e-commerce, extranet, and other new technologies. EAI may involve developing a new total view of an enterprise's business and its applications, seeing how existing applications fit into the new view, and then devising ways to efficiently reuse what already exists while adding new applications and data...more

Enterprise Application Integration

Definition: Enterprise Application Integration is the term used to describe the integration of the computer applications of an enterprise so as to maximise their utility throughout the enterprise.

In today’s business environment it has become essential for enterprises to make extensive use of computer systems and applications in order to establish and maintain a competitive advantage.

However, if these applications and systems are to provide the desired advantage it is imperative to ensure that their resources are available to all users and business processes that may benefit from their use.

Unfortunately, all too often these applications are not fully integrated within an organisation, preventing the seamless flow of information throughout the enterprise and forming ‘information silos’, or pooling of information resources.

Connectivity Problems

The integration problems many enterprises face today are due to the fact that until relatively recently there was no expectation that applications should be able to ‘talk’ to each other. Until the advent of networks, computer applications were designed to perform a specific purpose, and were often written in a range of different programming languages and used different data structures than each other, with no thought to integration.

Enterprise Application IntegrationToday, however, we expect all of our IT applications to speak the same language. Many vital business processes rely on access to data stored in a wide range of systems, so it is essential that they should be able to seamlessly share data in order to streamline workflow.

Ideally, enterprises would choose to start afresh, implementing an entirely new IT infrastructure designed with integration in mind. Unfortunately, most enterprises find this option prohibitively expensive and disruptive to the business, so they have no choice but to remain reliant on the old, out of date legacy systems.

The efficiency problems this can cause should not be underestimated. An enterprise running 10 separate applications requires 45 point-to-point connections in order to achieve integration. A larger enterprise running 50 applications would require 1,225 connections – which would become a clear hindrance to efficiency.

The challenge, therefore, is to find a technical solution to the problems that arise from application incompatibility.

Applications of EAI Software

There are many types of EAI software on the market (such as Sun Microsystems SeeBeyond), each approaching the problem of integration from a different angle and presenting a different solution. However, there are four overarching purposes for which EAI software can be used to improve efficiency:

Data Integration

EAI software often comes with built in application programming interfaces (APIs) by which it can effectively communicate with otherwise incompatible legacy systems, eliminating the need for multiple point-to-point connections between applications.

Data integration software works by providing homogenous data representations or access points to a range of disparate data sources. By providing a ‘front end’ tool by which users can access data from many different databases, the software can greatly increase the efficiency of business processes that rely on these disparate databases.

Process Integration

Only by making resources available to every process and user within an enterprise will the full benefit be extracted from computer systems. Unfortunately, the development of department specific systems has encouraged ‘islands of automation’ in many enterprises, where applications become isolated and are available only to a small portion of the enterprise.

EAI software offers the opportunity to bridge the gap between these applications. Whereas data integration standardises data across an enterprise, process integration standardises access to technology and resources.

Vendor Independence

EAI software is designed to allow for the future integration of new applications. By extracting rules and business policies from current data and applications and implementing them in the EAI system, it becomes possible to apply these rules to new applications added in the future with little disruption.

Common Façade

Perhaps most visibly, many EAI software packages offer the option of a complete front-end solution. There are many benefits to be found in providing a single access interface to the information systems of an enterprise. Primarily, a single access point can help reduce the complexity of many business processes within an enterprise. Additionally, a single interface will remove the necessity of training users to operate a range of different applications. Instead, a small measure of basic training can be sufficient to allow users to operate the EAI interface proficiently.

Further information regarding Enterprise Application Integration can be found at the Integration Consortium and the Intelligent Enterprise Magazine.