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An Introduction to the True Definition of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)

Published
  • January 15 2004, 1:00am EST

DMReview.com welcomes Michael Kuhbock and other members of the Enterprise Application Integration Consortium as contributors to a monthly column addressing the collection of tools, techniques and technology that enables applications to effectively interoperate across the enterprise.

Business and technology have been integrating applications from the dawn of time, or at least since we had our first two applications created. One of the greatest obstacles for those attempting to have an understanding of enterprise application integration (EAI) technology is that the definition of the acronym EAI has always been changing. With the expansion of global economies, the evolution of technology and the marketing messages of the many competing vendors looking to establish their differentiation and market position, there is broad-based confusion of the meaning of enterprise application integration. Two very important and common questions currently exist: how would you define EAI and how can it benefit business?

EAI is, simply put, the integration of applications at the enterprise level. EAI is the heartbeat of integration.

EAI can be described as, "The process of integrating multiple applications that were independently developed, may use incompatible technology and remain independently managed." From this perspective, EAI is not a technology per se, but a collection of tools, techniques and technology which enable applications to effectively interoperate.

This is not to say that integration and middleware apply only at the enterprise level. Indeed, middleware can be used at many levels: within a single system (component integration), across the enterprise (application-to-application integration) or across the supply chain (business-to-business integration). Integration brokers, for example, may be used on all levels, but their specific features and functions vary. CORBA and COM are commonly used at the component level, while message brokers, file brokers or ETL brokers are often used on the A2A level. Additionally, portals and specialized B2B brokers are used for managing interactions between companies.

A successfully integrated enterprise can reward your organization with significant cost, resource and time savings by increasing the speed of business reaction time. EAI connects existing and new systems to enable collaborative operation within your entire organization. This also assists in making real-time operating decisions, bringing all critical information to your fingertips and lowering operating costs (both IT and business).

Organizations must provide customers, employees, suppliers, distributors and numerous other parties with the information they need, when they need it. Business systems and processes can no longer remain isolated and disparate. The success of a business now demands better performance from easier application integration.

The EAI Industry Consortium (EAIIC)

To fully understand the definition of EAI one also has to look at the evolution of the technology industry. Today one broad label that is currently being used for EAI is "business Integration." Different people have different ideas of what business integration means, but the bottom line is business integration facilitates increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes that run the business. It includes improving the quality and timeliness of information, and providing information on demand and where it is needed, regardless of the technology. We now understand that business is driving technology, and EAI is a solution suite which supports business. In today's economy, there is a tremendous need for the services and solutions that EAI provides.

The ever-growing demand for clarification in the industry along with the pressing needs of business is why the EAI Industry Consortium (www.eaiindustry.org) was formed in 2001. The EAIIC was created as a global platform to unify the integration industry through broad- based collaboration. We have developed a community where not only the technology vendors can gather but also the end users of integration technology, business leaders, academics and researchers that study in the industry. All members of the EAI Industry Consortium have an opportunity to work together to define needs and develop solutions.

One of the goals of the EAIIC is to promote integration via education and thought leadership. We, as an industry, have to make sure we are unified in our messaging and the deliverables we facilitate for our customers. Thought leadership is delivered by creating the opportunity for the brightest to contribute via the EAIIC, not just the biggest. Forums such as the Global EAI Summit assist in getting this message out (www.globaleaisummit.com). End users (business) are also utilizing the EAI Industry Consortium to shape the future direction of integration, because now they have a more influential platform to work with the vendor and academic community, to push the development of solutions they require from a business perspective, which pertain to real-life challenges they are facing.

Like all technology, the EAI industry is always in a state of evolution and refinement. EAI as an industry does have a technologically sound and robust enterprise-wide integration solution offering in place. The end-user market is still relatively immature in their roll out of the enterprise- wide integration solutions. Business cases exist with positive ROIs. The majority of the end users are just beginning their integration journey or currently involved a work in process. As more companies start dealing with their integration challenges and start to roll out enterprise-wide solutions, we will start to see how large and robust the EAI market becomes.

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