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What is “enterprise system integration”?

As companies merge and grow, different systems from different vendors are implemented in different programming languages running in different environments. This is further complicated by the addition of bespoke applications, furthermore, companies are shifting towards utilising cloud-based applications that run as a SaaS[1] model (FinancesOnline, 2015). This heterogeneity introduces complex integration challenges.

‘Enterprise System Integration’, also known as ‘Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)’ provides intra- and inter-business connectivity aiming to lower costs while providing the same, or better, business value to clients (He et al. 2009 and Sharif et al. 2005). EAI thus facilitates the sharing of information and business processes of interrelated systems in order to achieve integration between disparate systems.

Different ways in which integration can be achieved

Typically, integration is usually accomplished via application connectivity and data transformation (Wang et al. 2011, Andersson and Johnson 2001, Martin and Scheibler 2007 and Hophe and Woolf 2015).

Application connectivity is implemented by using standard middleware products by means of connectors which allows applications to interact. These connectors typically perform two-way communication via two main messaging patterns; bus or hub and spoke (Hophe and Woolf 2015.

In order to avoid each connector having to convert data to and from every other applications’ formats, EAI systems usually stipulate an application-independent (common) data format. The EAI system usually provides a data transformation service to help convert between application-specific and common formats.

Key technologies for integration

Key technologies used in integration (Andersson and Johnson 2001, Martin and Scheibler 2007 and Hophe and Woolf 2015) are generally standards-based, and not tied to a specific implementation, for example:

Acknowledgement benefits and difficulties

The benefits of EAI include (Ruh et al. 2002 and Irani et al. 2003):

It was reported that 70% of all EAI projects fail (ebizq 2003). Most of these failures are not due to the software itself or technical difficulties, but rather due to management issues. The Integration Consortium European Chairman, Steve Craggs, has outlined the seven main pitfalls undertaken by companies using EAI systems (Veitch 2005):

Reflection and Conclusion

Whilst EAI can be of tremendous benefit, it can also increase coupling between systems, and therefore increase management overhead and costs.


Andersson, J. and Johnson, P. (2001) ‘Architectural integration styles for large-scale enterprise software systems’ Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference, 2001. EDOC ’01. Proceedings. Fifth IEEE International, Seattle, WA, 2001, pp. 224-236. Available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/document/950442/ (Accessed September 2016)

ebizq (2003) ‘Dancing Around EAI “Bear Trap”’ [Online]. Available at http://www.ebizq.net/topics/int_sbp/features/3463.html (Accessed September 2016).

FinancesOnline (2015) ‘The State of SaaS in 2015: Global Market Trends, Growth Forecasts, Industry Reports’  [Online]. Available at https://financesonline.com/state-saas-2015-global-market-trends-growth-forecasts-industry-reports/ (Accessed September 2016).

He,X. Li, H., Ding, Q. and Wu, Z. (2009) ‘The SOA-Based Solution for Distributed Enterprise Application Integration’, Computer Science-Technology and Applications, 2009. IFCSTA ’09. International Forum, Chongqing, 2009, pp. 330-336. [Online]. Available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/document/5384864/ (Accessed September 2016).

Hohpe, G. and Woolf, B. (2015) Enterprise Integration Patterns [Online]. Available at http://www.enterpriseintegrationpatterns.com/patterns/messaging/ (Accessed September 2016).

Irani, Z., Themistocleous, M. and Love, P.E.D. (2003) ‘The impact of enterprise application integration on information system lifecycles’ Information & Management, Volume 41, Issue 2, December 2003, Pages 177-187. [Online]. Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0378720603000466 (Accessed September 2016).

Martin, D., Wutke, D., and Scheibler, T. (2007) ‘An EAI Pattern-Based Comparison of Spaces and Messaging’ Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference, 2009. 11th IEEE International 15 Oct 2007 [Online]. Available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/xpls/icp.jsp?arnumber=4384022 (Accessed  September 2016).

Ruh, W. A., Maginnis, Francis, X., Brown, W. J. 2002, Enterprise Application Integration : A Wiley Tech Brief, e-book [Online] Available at http://open.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=117501 (Accessed September 2016).

Sharif, A.M., Irani, Z., Love, P.E.D. (2005) ‘Integrating ERP using EAI: a model for post hoc evaluation’, European Journal of Information Systems,  vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 162-174 [Online]. Available at http://search.proquest.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/docview/218785252/fulltext/E3E6E8C4549142A8PQ/1?accountid=14697 (Accessed September 2016).

Veitch, M. (2005) ‘Special Report: Service-Orientated Architecture – Dealing with an age of uncertainty’, Interview conducted by Martin Veitch, IT Week UK, 11 July 2005 [Online]. Available at http://go.galegroup.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/ps/i.do?&id=GALE|A133908130&v=2.1&u=tou&it=r&p=CDB&sw=w (Accessed  September 2016).

Wang, S., Li, X., Ling, L., Wang, K. and Jung, C. (2011) ‘Features of enterprise information systems integration: A systemic analysis’, Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, Anchorage, AK, 2011, pp. 333-339. [Online]. Available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/document/6083687/?arnumber=6083687 (Accessed September 2016).

[1] Software as a Service

[2] Service Orientated Architecture

[3] Enterprise Service Bus

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