System Integration – Make software “play well” with each other

system integration for software

Each business is unique in some sense or another. It is this uniqueness which helps it thrive in a competitive business landscape. This uniqueness can sometimes be destroyed by buzzwords like “best practices”, “standardization” etc. The specificity of a business can be retained yet the best practices taught slowly by using System Integration methods and tools.

Need for System Integration

Many industries have vital processes or systems that are specially developed to meet their unique industry requirements. They may not be standard but help the business solve a particular problem. Take for example CAD/CAM software or software running specialized machinery in manufacturing shop floors, all have been purpose built.

As per Gartner, System Integration is defined as “The process of creating a complex information system that may include designing or building a customized architecture or application, integrating it with new or existing hardware, packaged and custom software, and communications.”

What does the organization gain by System Integration?

System Integration is key to an organization with different software which does not talk to each other. Some of the gains made by an organization by prioritizing key system integration projects are –

  • Key Differentiator – This can become a key differentiator for the business. When all other organizations in your industry have business software that do not talk to each other, you can be an industry leader by integrating them.
  • Reduce manual movement of data – In the absence of integration, your teams are mostly moving data across systems by some manual means – which is inefficient and error-prone.
  • Faster decision making – With data flowing smoothly across your software, you will have all the information available to you to make quicker and better decisions.
System Integration Complexity

Many times, an organization is not sure of the kind of tool that would be required for integration. With the advent of Cloud software, there are three main types of integrations that exist –

  • On-Premise integration – When both the applications which are being integrated are on servers located on your premises, then the integration will be simpler as you control the environments where they are hosted.
  • On-premise to Cloud – When one of the applications is on your premises while the other is hosted on the Cloud (either yours or some public cloud).
  • Cloud to Cloud – When both the applications are hosted on the Cloud (vendor owned public cloud or your private cloud), then we need to do a Cloud to Cloud integration.

Based on the scenario, the integration methods can vary along with the time and effort required to do the same.

System Integration tools

As discussed in my earlier article, there are many system integration tools available in the market, some of the leading ones are listed below –

  • DB Links – Direct Database Links are a feature of Oracle databases used to let disparate databases talk to each other. MySQL doesn’t have an equivalent feature. You can easily query another schema on the same server, as long as your user has privileges to that schema.
  • Oracle Fusion Middleware – Oracle Fusion Middleware (FMW, also known as Fusion Middleware) consists of several software products from Oracle Corporation. FMW spans multiple services, including Java EE and developer tools, integration services, business intelligence, collaboration, and content management. This also includes the popular Oracle SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) which has been traditionally been used for integrations. FMW can be used for on-premise integrations or Cloud to On-premise integrations. A version of FMW called SOA Cloud Service can be used for Cloud to Cloud integrations.
  • Azure Platform App  Fabric – Windows Azure AppFabric provides a comprehensive cloud middleware platform for developing, deploying and managing applications on the Windows Azure Platform. It delivers additional developer productivity, adding in higher-level Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities on top of the familiar Windows Azure application model.
  • Dell Boomi – Dell Boomi is a 100% native cloud integration platform. Allowing organizations to automate business processes and build the connected business in a drag-and-drop interface with no coding required
System Integrators

With the variety and complexity involved in system integration, most organizations choose to involve external experts for their system integration needs. These experts commonly known as system integrators have expertise in the type of integration that you are looking for. Keep in mind the following points while selecting the right system integrator for your needs  –

  • Expertise in the type of integration that you specifically need. They should have done the software that you are trying to integrate into the mode (on-premise or cloud) that you have it in.
  • Partnership – they should have partnership agreements with the original vendors of the software so that in case of issues, requisite tickets can be raised and resolved.
  • Team – the specific team selected for the project should have hands-on experience in the software and work on the integration.

System integration is a highly beneficial and potential rewarding prospect for any business looking for competitive advantage. The critical aspect is getting it right…