Systems integration as a high-level application development approach
It is time for integration solution vendors to update their sales presentations
Sami Tähtinen, CTO, Frends Technology
With the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) boom in recent years, combined with enterprises’ increased interest in business process management and automation, systems integration has become an efficient tool to increase automation level. This has been realized in increased utilization of enterprise application integration (EAI) and business-to-business integration (B2Bi) platforms that enable businesses to integrate heterogeneous applications and systems into a coherent, business-serving entity. However, with the current economic situation, many businesses need to take actions to utilize their existing IT assets to the maximum, which typically forces budget cuts in development.
Fortunately, whether the focus is in development or in optimization, a well designed integration and SOA architecture can act as a flexible platform. System integration is an art of combining functionalities and data from various systems – hosted within the enterprise or by trading partners, customers, vendors, etc. – and creating an over-arching business process solution customized for an organization’s needs. In good times, this means that you can utilize integration as a tool to drive expanding business by automation of information exchange in the trading network, encompassing your internal and external functions.
In uncertain times, the value of integration solution is often either in optimizing resource-heavy processes - such as those requiring unnecessary manual work - by streamlining application-to-application communications, or in realizing new processes that are absolutely necessary to implement regardless of development budget cuts. The latter case can be achieved by taking a good look at what is already in place. If your organization is already utilizing a large number of business applications, you have a good chance of having most of the functionalities already there. It is just a matter of combining these functionalities into a working solution, and this is where the value of integration resides.
Systems integration is not just about moving information from one application to another. With today’s SOA and integration platforms and their adapter and transformation tools, integration is rather straightforward. Usually more challenging is to realize that these platforms are modern development tools. Instead of writing traditional if-then-else type of control structures, you work with business processes, and instead of calling software libraries, you call services and transfer data located in heterogeneous applications. With these tools you are actually creating applications that are located slightly higher in your abstraction mindset and consequently more close to the business processes, business requirements, and business development.
Whether your focus is in IT infrastructure optimization or in development of new features, you should consider SOA and integration as something that gives you possibilities to utilize your existing IT assets to the maximum. When shifting the focus from development and customization of single software applications to the business process level, you are also forced to understand better your existing IT ecosystem, a pretty hard exercise but absolutely worth it.
And even if you use integration tools just for optimizing manual processes between different applications, you should remember that those organizations who take the risk of developing new functionalities in economically uncertain times are usually those who will get the benefit when the economy is back on a growth track.
For more information on integration architectures, visit Frends Technology’s Architecture Blog at www.frends.com/blog.