EAI – Enterprise Application Integration. Currently the toast of the consulting classes, replacement to ERP, the new universal IT panacea.
As with everything else there is a glint of gold in this but you do have to dig hard to find it.
There are a wide variety of so called EAI solutions.
As with all IT, the only way that an EAI solution will work for you, is if your IT system currently works for you.
EAI is not a magic bullet. It will not recreate your business process making it bigger, better, and easy to use. If your system already has problem areas, it will help make them bigger and better and easier to see. That’s why senior management is interested in it. It can quickly and easily debundle the information hierarchies and fiefdoms that some Managers & Department heads have created to enhance their own position.
EAI at its most basic level is the integration of dissimilar application systems to share information from them via a common user interface
The main goal of EAI should be to move towards achieving a “Zero Latency Enterprise” situation or an enterprise API.
(Gartner Group report Sept 1999)
The traditional way this has been approached is via middleware, which when deployed can connect applications and systems together, but can be unaware of other similar transactions taking place with in the same IT environment.
This approach can give rise to problems or restrictions actually caused by the integration method itself.
This philosophy is alien to the basic under-pinning of EAI which is not a point to point style solution, but one which focuses on the holistic needs of the enterprise business process, and then acts as an ‘honest’ information broker.
Thus we can see that really EAI is not a new area, Middleware solutions have been around for many years. It is really a new way of looking at an old problem.
These provide a point to point link between system A and system B – Any other integration need or link may complicate this process and may indeed render it inoperable.
To add insult to injury, with a restricted middleware approach, changes to systems which enable the interaction of information sharing may require alterations to both Source and Target systems. This can make the whole process complex, time consuming and often dooms it to failure.
Continuing use of traditional middleware solutions can create complex point to point linkages, which resemble poorly planned plumbing with no central control and negligible management.