The development of technology over the years has led to most systems within an organization existing in heterogeneous environments. That is to say, different applications were developed with varying languages, operate on different hardware and available on numerous platforms. The problems lay in the fact that when implementing systems, decisions on the technology employed differed from department to department and also had some dependence on the latest trends. What emerges is that these systems serve only the departmental needs. Information and process sharing across an organization is not accommodated for. These types of systems are known as ‘stovepipes’. Each of these stovepipe systems held independent data; it was recognized that customer information and the sharing of this information across departments was extremely valuable to an enterprise. Allowing the disparate systems to interoperate became increasingly important and necessary. As organizations grew, so too did the desire to integrate key systems with clients and vendors.
What is new are the approach and the ideas that Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) encompasses and the techniques it uses. In order for it to be a success and a realistic solution, applying EAI requires involvement of the entire enterprise: business processes, applications, data, standards and platforms.
i. Business Process Integration (BPI): It is fundamentally important for a corporation to specify the processes involved in the exchange of enterprise information. “This allows organizations to streamline operations, reduce costs and improve responsiveness to customer demands.” This can include process management, process modelling, and workflow. Here, we involve the combination of tasks, procedures, organizations, required input and output information, and tools needed for each step in a business process.
ii. Application Integration: Here, the goal is to “bring data or a function from one application together with that of another application that together provide near real-time integration.” This can include, business-to-business integration, customer relationship management (CRM) systems which can be integrated with a company’s backend applications, web integration, and building web sites that interact with multiple business systems.
iii. Data Integration: If we want the above two integrations to succeed, we must also integrate the data involved. Its location must be identified, recorded, and a metadata model must be built (a master guide for various data stores). Now, data can be shared or distributed across database systems, providing it is in a standard format such as COM+/DCOM, CORBA, EDI, JavaRMI,
iv. Platform Integration: Finally, the separate needs of the heterogeneous network must be integrated. Platform Integration deals with the processes and tools that are required to allow these systems to communicate, both optimally and securely, so data can be passed through different applications without difficulty. For example, finding how an Apple can pass data to a wireless palmtop is part of the entire corporate system integration. These activities, as we have said, are essential if EAI is to replace the unsatisfactory integration techniques that we have arrived at through time.
EAI INTEGRATION ARCHITECTURES
Within EAI, there exist two types of integration architecture:
1. Direct point-to-point (PTP)
This is the basic, more traditional approach. It is used because it is easy and quick, certainly viable
for situations where we have few systems to integrate. For example, a new web site may need to
interface with an existing sales order system and point-to-point integration may appear suitable.