Editors: Eldar A. Musayev
|Newsletter for e-Business consultants and
Irresistible fashion: EAI - Enterprise Application
What it is?
For the last 20-40 years every large company got a lot of
applications on various platforms written in different languages
and using a number of incompatible technologies. So... how to
make them work together? Not out of aesthetic need (yeah, it's
nice, but not enough to spend millions), but out of quite
practical needs: integration. HR need data from accounting, sales
want to know level of inventory, and dealers want to reorder
product automatically from their inventory system. This is even
not to mention that training becoming a pain and support... it's
better even not to start about that...
Elementary mathematics says that if you have N components and
need to connect every two of them you have to create N2
connections. However, if you create N+1th component in the middle
and connect every two of original components through this N+1th,
then you need to create only N connections. For 2 components this
mean 2 connections less, for 10 this is already 98 connections
less and so on. And this N+1th component is EAI architecture.
Considering the history of EAI (and especially prehistory)
there are five steps which brought IT industry to EAI technology.
- Companies create (or purchase) separate systems for
separate business processes and departments. One for
payroll, another for accounting, third one for human
resources, etc. The technology grew.
- Companies get too many subsystems which does not work
together. As a result promotion in human resources should
be reentered in payroll and separately in accounting
Not the easiest way to do that. The need appeared.
- Some companies-developers of separate packages started to
integrate their separate products. However because each
client is unique integration became loose, flexible,
allowing to adapt the system to a client requirements.
Companies started to upgrade from separate packages to
such integrated ones, throwing old ones into the trash.
ERP was born.
- Despite the process on step 3, many companies still has
large incompatible chunks of IT, and each one represent
quite an investment, which is not easy to throw out.
Besides, ERP companies got a vision of the world
dominance and started to charge sky-high rates for their
products and consulting services. As a last drop to
overfill this cup, some clever minds noticed that it is
rare occasion when even some ERP does everything in a
best way. More often one system does one thing the best,
another does better something else, and so on. "Best-of-the-Breed"
ideology was born.
- The Demand created the Offer. Instead of (and in addition
to) embedded integration, new products appeared
specialized in connecting everything with everything. EAI
Why this is so important?
In short there are three major reasons:
- Too many large and middle-size companies have this
- IT non-proficient management (which means majority U.S.
large corporations) thinks that it's cheaper to integrate
than redo. And sometimes it's true.
- So, it's a lot of money.
A different question is why this need arose. According to AberdeenGroup there are
5 major reasons for this (October 1998 data):
- Get new applications into production quickly (38%).
- More information beyond traditional confines (20%).
- Expand Supplier and Customer relationships (18%)
- Integrate a Best-of-Breed world (14%)
- Mergers and acquisitions (10%)
With a new law, permitting banks, insurance companies and
brokers to be within the same company, it's likely that
last reason (mergers and acquisitions) will become
significantly more important. Also these 5 reasons hide
the sixth, semi-technical reason:
- eBusiness demands web-style thin-client front-ends to
existing applications, which were not created with either
Internet or intranet in mind.
Definition of EAI
There is a number of opinions on what EAI really is. To avoid
religious wars it's better to know most of definitions and use
appropriate ones when applicable. Definitions include:
- Just it: Enterprise Application Integration.
- The process of integration of various applications within
(sometimes extended) enterprise. Extended enterprise
means a company and it's partners.
- Software tools to integrate different applications
including legacy applications on mainframes and midrange
computers written in obsolete languages like COBOL.
- Software tools to integrate various diverse applications.
- Architecture and/or code which performs this integration.
Apparently the meaning of EAI changes dramatically,
depending on which definition you use. For example IBM
WebSphere application server and CORBA tools are EAI tools by
definition 4, but not by definition 3. At the same time "screen
scrapers" fit into definition 3 and does not go well with
definition 4. Effectively this means that almost everybody can
claim to be part of EAI by simply using a more convenient
Some tools for EAI
Here are some tools for EAI offered by various software
companies. Notice, however, that this list is neither complete
Start from the Web site of EAI Journal:
After that simple search on AltaVista will return tons of web-sites
dealing with (and selling) various software tools claiming to be
tools for EAI.
And if this is not enough try books:
Application Integration Addison-Wesley Information
Technology Series) David S. Linthicum / Paperback /
Application Integration with CORBA Component and Web-Based
Solutions Ron Zahavi, David S. Linthicum / Paperback
/ Published 1999
Software Solutions : Integration Strategies and Practices
Sergio Lozinsky, Paul Wahl (Foreword) / Paperback /
Application Integration at Work: How to Successfully Plan
for EAI William Ruh, et al / Paperback / Published