What is Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)? Pros vs. Cons
As businesses grow and adopt different application software to optimize data management and efficiency, manual information integration becomes more difficult due to excessive documentation. This is why many companies are utilizing enterprise application integration to automate data exchange, gain insights, and streamline workflow.
Cloud-based integration systems further enhance data management by virtually storing and syncing information, allowing users to access data digitally from a secure network. In fact, a ZDNet study found that 67% of enterprises will operate on a cloud-based software application by the end of 2020. Therefore, organizations looking to synchronize and optimize the functionality of existing systems should consider an integration service.
What is EAI?
Enterprise application integration (EAI) is the implementation of software that handles system integration to streamline data exchange between the front and back offices. EAI can connect any established solutions, such as customer relationship, supply chain management, forecasting, inventory, and financial services, by implementing a third-party system integrator.
By automating information sharing, different departments across all locations can access operational data and generate reports with holistic, up-to-date information. The availability of data analytics ensures that management makes educated decisions with accurate information.
Without application integration, the information would have to be manually entered across all software, consuming large amounts of time, capital, and energy. Instead, EAI develops a centralized interface available to verified users, eliminating the need for inputting data and sifting through several systems to find the requested information. Manual methods also heighten the risk of human error, which can lead to repercussions such as increased expenses due to inaccurate inventory or sales calculations.
EAI vs. SOA vs. ESB
There are several types of application integration models that seek to better manage data but perform integration uniquely due to differing architecture. It is essential to learn these models to understand how their processes work and which type would best address a business's needs.
Enterprise application integration is the actual framework that acts as the messenger between multiple systems. In order to achieve EAI, software is implemented to share data and simplify standard processes by collaborating system tools and functions.
EAI also defines protocols for interacting systems to standardize software architectures and data formatting.
- Streamlined Data Exchange
- Reduced Labor Costs
- Time Savings
- Minimized Human Error
- Third-Party Software Required
Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a sub-category or model of integration used to achieve full EAI. However, while EAI typically uses software to connect applications and streamline communication, SOA transmits information without a third-party solution. SOA's robust infrastructure can integrate legacy systems, application components, and messaging functions to enhance information sharing and operational efficiency.
The SOA method has gained popularity because of its transaction-like capabilities to share data; meaning information exchange is handled step by step, with each step being dependent on the success of the previous one. Software developers can use its design scheme to access application and enterprise-level solutions without affecting its other automations. This ensures that implementing SOA integration is seamless throughout all existing systems.
- High Reusability
- Independent Location
- Improved Scalability
- Large Initial Investment
- Increased Response Time (due to greater load capacity)
As an SOA model, an enterprise service bus (ESB) is another integration platform architecture that connects applications with more complicated infrastructures. An ESB acts as a cloud-computing router that regulates data between communicating applications, as is commonly used in SOA and EAI principles.
Similar to SOA, an ESB has a service-oriented infrastructure for data transmittance upon user request or event occurrence, where data exchange is triggered by new inputs. Other EAI integration software opens a continuous stream of application communication, ensuring the system is always refreshed and providing the most relevant data. This solution is also used to transcribe messages to ensure all data entering and exiting the ESB is in the same format.
- Enhanced Application Connectivity
- Protocol Conversion
- Message Translation
- Inflexible Application Deployment
- Halt in Operations if Service Backs Up
- Need for Experienced Software Programmers
5 Types of EAIs
While SOA and ESB are common models, there are several EAI application types programmed to meet the needs of specific businesses. There are five basic types of EAI that streamline different forms of integration, including-
1. Point-to-Point Integration
As one of the original models, point-to-point integration only handles simple interactions between two data sources. In this type, a script is used to pull, translate, and transfer information from one application to another. While it is possible to handle several systems, the connections may become unmanageable and difficult to maintain.
2. Hub-and-Spoke Integration
Hub-and-spoke integration creates a centralized base that other applications can connect to, much like the hub and spokes of a wheel. By establishing a database that consolidates all data, the interconnections between subsystems are eliminated. Although this simplifies maintenance, software developers must still double-check programming to ensure the information is routed to the correct location.
3. Bus Integration
Bus integration is an advanced version of the hub-and-spoke model, as it can operate with limited or no human interference. By using a set of standards and protocols, bus integration enables automatic data transmittance as long as the applications are compliant with the policies.
Middleware is a software tool that settles between application interfaces and operating systems to translate and support communication. This model simplifies consolidating data entries across multiple systems with various scripts and formats. The middle location of this tool also gives developers flexibility on how many applications can be connected. There are simple versions of middleware that link two or three systems, and more complex cloud-based models that virtually integrate several disparate software.
Microservice is the standardized architecture of modern cloud-based enterprise applications. Companies that utilize web-based integration can gather big data by gaining access from internal and external sources through application programming interfaces (APIs). These services extend information sharing beyond business lines through complex software development.
Achieving complete enterprise application integration can optimize communication, reporting efficiency, and data-based analyses. However, businesses must first outline their objectives to determine what integration model will enhance their existing systems.