The integration strategies over the past decade have leveraged centralized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technologies, middleware standard and systems integration resources, to fulfill systems integration requirements. This was used to create a knitted business process solution after the evolution from mainframe systems to the client server environment.
It was an approach we saw widely being used to integrate ERP (off the shelf packaged applications), legacy applications and data. What this left behind were integrated Business solutions which required extensive integration monitoring.
This gave rise for the need of an Enterprise Architect to govern these integrated solutions after implementation. The run or support factor of these integration layers required monitoring and strong governance. This left certain considerations to be noted when looking at re-architecting these integration layers.
Today’s integration challenges
However simplified enterprise integration can be, these knitted solutions still have their own set of challenges.
It’s about monitoring
- Many of businesses today use EAI solutions for their day-to-day operation. Once these processes are set up, they are expected to be up and running 24x7x365. Any downtime or mis-routing can cause the business to virtually stop. This requires much integration monitoring.
It’s about niche skills
- The skills required to maintain an Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) solution are quite scarce. Troubleshooting complex problems requires a combination of functional and technical skill sets including insight into business scenarios, which are generally spread across various individuals. When staffing new integration enhancements or integration maintenance projects, these niche skill sets must be noted and expect a strong people collaboration aspect to this mixture as well.
It’s about governance
- Lack of standards is another major challenge. Though many standards have evolved and been adapted across multiple EAI tools, not all EAI tools agree or work on the same standards. Added to this are the extensions to the standards which provide a means of increased customization into the normal integration method. A significant contributor to this situation is that the integration standards which were initially used have not been followed nor aligned to, over the years. Governance is lacking.
It’s about integration mapping insight
- Most of the EAI tools use eXtensible Markup Language (XML) for exchanging information. XML is a free-flowing language where the tags can be marked up as and when needed. Hence, when we talk about interoperability, one still needs to resolve the semantic differences between these XML standards. This is time consuming and requires significant technical and business insight. Further qualifying these XML data mappings is significant effort.
It’s about qualifying the cloud promise around integration
- To add to this complex situation the drive to utilize cloud integration solutions is also a disruptive factor to conventional integration trends. It certainly does provide food for thought on data privacy around the interchange of data in integration scenarios and the service level measurement for integration monitoring for a cloud based offering amongst others.
Now that the integration challenges facing business are understood, what are the potential solutions to these challenges?
Technology Integration Solutions
One of the most suitable answers is SAP HANA, a next generation platform that now powers SAP Business Suite Applications. This platform brings together transactions and analytics into a single, in-memory system and features powerful integration tools like SLT, Replication Server, Data Services and Smart Data access to facilitate the integration of data in real-time or batch.
Businesses can benefit from the platform by fully leveraging the power of hardware and the advanced capabilities such as predictive, text analytic, spatial processing, and data virtualization on the same architecture. That means single database, one environment and therefore reducing TCO by consolidating heterogeneous servers into SAP HANA servers. This directly reduces the hardware, lifecycle management, and maintenance costs.
Integration efficiency is not the only benefit derived from this platform. The ability to get real-time insights along with the speed that it processes data gives you the potential to fundamentally reshape and improve business processes and becomes a strategy enabler and not hindrance.