What is Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)?
The general idea of enterprise application integration is using IT-enabled systems to integrate business applications. Because enterprises often have so many different software applications running simultaneously, it’s easy for an environment to grow so complex that it’s too difficult to manage efficiently and bogs down processes. An example company might need to create or enable ERP integration in order to connect front-end applications to its back-end ERP system. That’s where an enterprise application integration system comes in.
By using different models of middleware, EAI standardizes and centralizes point-to-point integration methods across the entire enterprise’s infrastructure. Previously, each connected application, such as supply chain management, would need its own connector, but more standardized methods connect to a common system, which provides integration functionalities to a company’s entire network.
An enterprise application integration services implementation allows for a more flexible architecture, so enterprises can add or subtract different business processes into their environment quickly. Mostly what a company has to do, then, is adjust the configuration of its enterprise application integration strategy so that multiple applications can re-use a single service.
Why is Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) Important?
To ensure maximum efficiency, enterprises must be able to integrate and streamline various data sources and business processes within their ecosystem. Now when we say “integrate,” that can certainly mean several different things – including B2B integration, system integration, and cloud integration. Enterprise application integration (EAI) is another method that companies need to fully embrace.
Whether applications reside in-house or in the cloud, they are actually more inexpensive than they’ve ever been before. An enterprise integration platform can tie together all of the different applications that an enterprise needs to function in a simple-to-use solution. In doing so, enterprise application integration enables companies to manage data sources through these one-stop interfaces.
In the example below, you can see how Cleo's EAI system connects external-facing applications like Amazon Vendor Portal, Shopify, and Magento, along with EDI trading partners like Walmart and Target, to the back-end ERP system, which is Acumatica.
EAI vs. SOA vs. ESB
EAI systems have a lot in common with service-oriented architecture (SOA) and enterprise service buses (ESB), but they also have some key differences. For starters, an enterprise service bus is actually one model of a service-oriented architecture, just as an SOA is one way to achieve EAI.
Let’s look at some of the key characteristics of SOAs and ESBs.
What is Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)?
According to Gartner, an SOA is “a design paradigm and discipline that helps IT meet business demands.” An SOA has a service design that is contextualized and based on business processes, includes several interaction models, such as resource- and method-oriented, relies on the reuse of existing infrastructure, and is most effective when its implementation is relying on service representation governance.
An SOA has easy-to-configure components and the flexibility to assemble different services and mix-and-match based on an enterprise’s needs, and it allows for services to be reused and reconfigured. It’s designed to bring better alignment to a business, such as bringing applications to market faster, lower the total cost of ownership of integration, and increased business agility.
What is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)?
An ESB is a different approach to IT architecture. ESBs are designed to integrate various applications over what is considered a “bus-like” infrastructure. The ESB resides between the framework and a suite as a way to perform application integration. Additionally, an ESB can implement routing, provide a blanket way to move tasks, subscribe to messages sent that are based on structural and business policy rules, and various other integration capabilities.
ESBs on the surface appear to be quite complex and difficult, but many enterprises find them to be useful. They are quite effective in facilitating service location transparency, service and process sharing across an enterprise, and can separate business service from the service implementation itself.
Overcoming Enterprise Application Integration Challenges
While there are certainly many reasons for enterprises to leverage enterprise application integration, it’s also critical to be aware of the potential issues that may arise. With so many business processes coming and going within an enterprise, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of tools to manage. IT departments must be cognizant of this and ensure that they have a firm understanding of their environment to manage the successful implementation of the various applications.
Disadvantages of Enterprise Architecture Integration
Some weaknesses in an EAI systems include:
► Complex architecture
► It’s tougher to learn
► Performance bottlenecks
► Constant change
All these potential pitfalls can be overcome, however, when enterprises are properly trained and prepared to manage these new additions to their legacy systems. Enterprises must take accountability for the numerous point-to-point integrations within the enterprise, especially when so many different applications are coming and going across locations, departments, and job roles.
A Better Way to Do Application Integration
The amount of applications that an enterprise must integrate is increasing by the day. Cleo’s application integration and API solutions can seamlessly connect your best-of-breed enterprise and SaaS applications easily and efficiently. With pre-built application connectors, a simplified information flow, and real-time visibility, embracing and taking advantage of an enterprise application integration platform promises more benefits than previous one-off and custom approaches.
As part of its ecosystem integration platform, Cleo provides customers across industries a next-generation application integration solution designed to quickly integrate new applications by leveraging connectors, system and technology adapters, API integrations, and design wizards. The result: Enterprises can easily build and manage end-to-end integrations between internal and partner systems for comprehensive business process visibility.
Learn more about application integration and application onboarding in the "How to Improve Application and Trading Partner Onboarding" white paper.