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enterprise application
Enterprise application integration facilitates the flow of information and straps transactions among disparate and complex applications and business processes within and among the organizations.

With the move towards market globalization, there have been mergers and acquisitions at a phenomenal pace. It has become imperative for organizations to share data and business logic with its business partners within the supply chain. This is where Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) comes into picture.

Now as Information technology is aiming at providing companies with a competitive edge, several factors can slow down its effectiveness. The move from the traditional brick and mortar operations to sophisticated processes and the repercussions of mergers and acquisitions, a need has arisen to respond to the ever-changing market demands. Application Integration has become essential for a company's success in today? economy.

A standard EAI system provides with a broad range of services ranging from security management, protocol management, data mapping, and other related functions. These services define the functionality and flow of data in the application. EAI solutions can benefit an organization by providing end-to-end visibility and control of business operations. This control improves interactions with partners and customers; increases responsiveness to business changes; enables new market opportunities; and makes captured knowledge more widely available.

Companies need integration that can be set up, taken down, and changed quickly, and that can work with a variety of partners, systems, and rapidly changing technologies. In case of Application-Integration, the focus lies largely on integrating one production application with the other, for EAI middleware is implemented in the form of connectors that handle data transformation and business logic with outside systems like the ERP Systems (SAP, PeopleSoft), Database Systems (DB2, MS SQL Server, Oracle), Message Queuing Systems (Mqseries, MSMQ) etc.

Integrating disparate systems is a very complex task. Application integration in the past was a rare achievement and was restricted to simple exchange of data. EAI requires a whole new approach to integration. The old approach involved building custom point-to-point integration, one application at a time. This cannot meet the demands of the Internet economy wherein companies need to integrate their business processes quickly with dozens, even hundreds, of other companies. Today, with the introduction of component based models like EJB, DCOM, CORBA etc, it has become relatively easier to provide software applications as congregations of stand-alone and independent business components that communicate with the business processes through a standard set of APIs.

Many of the companies today are embracing the component-based applications. This is either by developing a new application or by componentizing their existing applications. The approach to componentize involves splitting up the colossal applications into an assembly of numerous independent business components. DCOM and CORBA/IIOP are the two main protocols for object communication across networks, including the Internet. Both are platform independent, programming models that support compatibility between applications in a complex system. DCOM is used for Windows-based applications, and CORBA is found on many platforms. Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is a communication protocol that defines a new way for processes on different systems to communicate, the heart of which is the Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML has emerged as the leading business-to-business integration and enterprise application candidate. XML is fast becoming the unifier among integrated systems.

Why the need to integrate applications?
When we look at it, we come up with several reasons why it is important to integrate applications:
  • To respond to the ever-increasing mergers and acquisitions.
  • Integrate with suppliers and customers hence implementing Supply Chain Management.
  • To scale with the e-business needs.
  • To reduce redundancy.
  • To integrate with high-end ERP Systems.
  • To increase competency by reducing the time taken in transmitting information.
  • Requisites of an EAI system
    A typical EAI system requires:
  • A Data-interchange format.
  • Server Architecture.
  • Programmatic Methods.
  • Message Queuing Systems.
  • Transaction Monitors.
  • As an example, An EAI System would include XML as a data-interchange format, Enterprise Java Beans as server architecture, CORBA and DCOM as programmatic methods for processes to call each other, message-queuing systems to let systems communicate asynchronously, and transaction monitors to ensure that operations complete properly.

    The Various Phases of Enterprise Application Integration Process
    There are several phases of an Enterprise Application Integration process that includes:
  • Solution outline phase.
  • Architecture phase.
  • Design Phase.
  • Implementation Phase.
  • The end result of this process is a consolidated, consistent and coherent view of the vital information that's accessible from multiple points across the enterprise.

    The benefits of Enterprise Application Integration
    EAI provides advantages through uniting disparate applications; reducing redundant data entry; merging diverse data sets; and reducing transaction costs.
    EAI proves beneficial to businesses for varied number of reasons:
  • Increased Efficiency: The ability to automate business processes across the enterprise and across existing boundaries.
  • Value of information: Redundant databases are aligned eliminating duplicate data.
  • Lower costs: The EAI strategy is to create one interface per application. This lowers the cost of upgrades or modifications/additions to applications.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved Customer Service.
  • The ability to extend applications to more users.
  • The integration of applications is compelled by the Internet and the need to connect system-to-system with customers, suppliers, collaborators, and partners of all sorts within the supply chain.

    EAI is not just another buzzword, but it is a linchpin that lets e-business work. It is a technology in response to rapidly changing business need!