As businesses grow, they adopt various enterprise applications. These can include customer support tools, accounting software and analytics models that allow them to function as one well-oiled machine. However, business processes only work together with some form of enterprise application integration system (EAI). Enterprise application integration allows these tools to talk with one another, helping to synchronize data and the workforce and greatly improve upon the old way of doing things using independent, isolated legacy systems. This guide explores the pros and cons of having an EAI system and what it means for your company's customer relationship management, supply chain management and business performance.
What Is EAI?
Enterprise application integration (EAI) functions as the glue for a company. These systems unite multiple applications and workflows into one structure. They allow a company to use information consistently, keeping everyone on the same page automatically.
EAI works within the existing service-oriented architecture. It uses current business rules to bring together various sets of enterprise applications. The improved point-to-point connections streamline the workflow and keep the existing infrastructure manageable for coding purposes.
Why Is Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) Important?
Enterprise application integration achieves three functions. First, it enables data integration. No matter how many enterprise applications a single organization has, the information on the current systems will be the same. Additionally, when someone updates a data set or file, other people can see those changes immediately.
Second, EAI allows for vendor independence. A company doesn't have to worry about re-implementing its business applications when it works with different brand applications. Enterprise application integration serves as a singular voice for a connected application.
Third, EAI eliminates the need to retrain users. The application components have the same interface, no matter where someone accesses it. Users don't have to worry about learning the ins and outs of applications where enterprise application integration offers complete uniformity.
Some of the other advantages of EAIs include:
- Real-time access to information
- Streamlined business processes
- Efficient access to information
- Timely information and data transfer across the system
- Low development and maintenance costs
EAI vs. SOA vs. ESB
EAI (Enterprise Application Integration)
Pros of EAI
EAI brings all of a company's workflows and databases under one roof. The system ensures consistent information, data formats and processes among integrated applications. It serves as a unifying force that supports workers and users when they need it most. Other benefits of EAI include:
- Simplified distribution of asynchronous cloud computing
- Maximized flexibility
- Guaranteed delivery
- Reuse of big data across existing applications
Cons of EAI
EAI systems don't always fit the needs of companies of all scopes and sizes. The complex architecture and challenging learning curve can pose a daunting task for some business owners looking to scale. Some users might find it difficult to access and maintain the business logic after the system integration.
SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture)
Pros of SOAs
Service-oriented architectures provide services to other components via designated application components. SOAs use a communication protocol to handle a company's integration needs, even when dealing with multiple independent vendors. The technology aligns with any business policies that promote interoperability, flexibility and shared services.
Other advantages of an SOA include:
- Simplifies updates
- Operates independently of location and platform
- Scales with ease
- Enables reuse of services in other applications
Cons of SOAs
An SOA shares some of the same shortcomings as an EAI approach. The software comes with high upfront costs and increases service management complexity. Other potential cons stem from the longer response time and demands on the existing systems.
ESB (Enterprise Service Bus)
Pros of ESBs
An enterprise service bus contains a set of rules and principles for integrating applications. The idea is that the applications can talk to each other through the bus, enabling timely and efficient integration. The flexible architecture helps boost a company's agility by slashing the time users need to collaborate.
Other perks of an ESB include:
- Requires minimal customization
- Boosts operational agility and efficiency
- Features an array of tools
- Provides consistent application integration
Cons of ESBs
With ESBs, the architecture has a single point of failure and has a risk of regression. Additionally, users might cause bottlenecks following implementation, which may require significant planning to avoid.
5 Types of EAIs
Point-to-point integration stands out as the earliest form of data integration. It creates connections between two nodes or endpoints. You can think of this model as a telephone call; one phone connects to another, and only the callers can hear what's said on the line.
This form of integration involves extracting data from one application and sending it to other data structures. The software tool modifies the structure during the middle of the process so that both parties can understand it. Point-to-point integration works best with small-scale models since it's challenging to maintain at scale.
The hub-and-spoke model resembles a bike wheel. The software systems serve as the central force or hub that connects the applications or spokes. When different technologies need to talk, they send data to the hub, which reformats and redistributes the information.
Hub-and-spoke integration eliminates the demand for individual dependencies in the enterprise application. That's because the communication in this system doesn't occur between pairs. Developers should still utilize runtime components to ensure data transmission to the correct source.
Bus integration serves as the next logical step after the hub-and-spoke integration. It operates without human interference, minimizing the chances of a manual error. Instead, the architecture uses a defined set of business rules to dictate the flow of information between data sources.
This model doesn't contain a central rules engine, though it does have a single point of failure. Many enterprises use it to scale from point-to-point integration to reach enterprise-wide implementation. The approach enhances agility and flexibility for high-level communication.
Middleware technologies exist between the user interface and the operating system. They serve as hidden translators that enable swift data transfers and communication between applications in the system. They're ideal for consolidating and synchronizing a massive data structure across independent systems.
Middleware comes in several forms, including remote procedure call (RPC), message-oriented middleware (MOM) and transaction-processing monitors. Each model serves as a glue between enterprise applications but in different ways. For instance, RPCs allow for the distribution of a single service across multiple programs, while MOMs carry self-contained units of data via the communication channel.
Microservices may be small, but they are mighty. The architecture is the modern standard for an enterprise application that relies on cloud computing. Companies that use the cloud can capture and extract data from the microservice and route it to the desired destination.
Microservice technologies have grown in popularity over the last decade. They benefit from easy maintenance, loose coupling and independent deployment. Companies can organize the technology based on its unique business capabilities, ensuring that they get the most out of the enterprise applications.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does enterprise application integration work?
Enterprise application integration is a type of middleware framework. It connects operating systems and the applications that run on them. When the applications and operating systems don't speak the same language, enterprise application integration steps in to bridge the communication gap.
You can think of EAI as plumbing for business applications. It connects two applications so users can pass data through its "pipe." EAIs enable people to submit forms on a web page and web servers to display personalized web pages to that user.
What is one of the benefits of enterprise application integration?
EAIs come with various benefits for business processes, including more flexible IT infrastructure, increased agility and the ability to automate business processes. However, improved information sharing is arguably the most significant benefit.
EAIs function as bridges that let information flow between various software systems inside and outside the IT department. They act as a primary data point for people throughout a company or organization. The system allows people to spend less time searching for information and more time on meaningful work within their business service area.
What is an ESB application?
ESBs provide a common system with multiple functions and applications, including protocol conversion, location transparency, transformation of data into a usable format and system performance monitoring.
What is the difference between ESBs and EAIs?
The single point of failure distinguishes ESBs and EAIs. ESBs have them. EAIs do not. All the services go through a single centralized system for ESBs. If something happens to that routing center, the system can fail. EAIs have built-in hedges to mitigate this risk.
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