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.
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.
Today, 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out of date legacy systems.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
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:
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.
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.
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
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
Consortium and the Intelligent Enterprise Magazine.