By Steven Baker
In today's highly competitive business environment, organizations in all industries are challenged to be more productive with fewer resources. The move to integrate diverse applications within an organization is a response to this desire to do more with less. Enterprise application integration (EAI) is the term mostly commonly used to describe the process applied to integrating applications within a department, division, organization, or enterprise.
As companies have become more and more dependent on technology and computer systems for their business operations, the hardware resources and software applications used for operations have increased in number and variety. For most companies, the hardware and software systems used for business were procured over time. The computer hardware likely includes server and desktop products of various vintages and technologies from many different vendors. Similarly, the business software in use may include older legacy applications running on mainframes or minicomputers, client/server applications on UNIX and Windows systems, newer distributed applications based on components, and personal productivity software running on Windows desktop computers.
Most companies have already invested heavily in network and hardware infrastructure to allow any computer system within the organization to physically communicate with other computer systems. Enterprise application integration attempts to provide integration at the software level for all of the disparate applications used within an organization. These software applications are likely running on a variety of different operating systems and computer hardware. EAI also attempts to automate processes as much as possible, displacing manual user methods prone to error with software automation. The aims of this integration effort are to improve business performance and access to business information, while reducing administrative and operational costs. The objective is to create from these disparate software and hardware components the semblance of a single virtual enterprise application for users, operating as seamlessly as possible.