Data integration has been around for a while, but application integration is a relative newcomer with different, often more complex processes and challenges. What’s the difference and what does that mean for companies looking to utilize cloud-based integration?
For those of you new to the integration space — or for those who just need a quick refresher course – data integration is the combination of information residing in two different locations to provide the user with a unified view of the two formerly separate data sets. With the demand for Big Data continuing to grow, data integration is now often performed in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or during data warehousing, where large amounts of data are extracted, converted, and uploaded from a wide variety of sources into a single, integrated stream for review, analysis, and archiving. Data integration is not necessarily conducted in real time, although enterprise IT’s insatiable appetite for more and more data is certainly driving up demand for real-time integration.
This, of course, does not mean that data integration is some simple, boring operation that’s been around for so long it’s no longer an issue, or even very interesting. Far from it. Data integration, done right, standardizes data and provides portability without redundancy while ensuring data quality as it travels between applications. This is not as easy as it might appear.
Application integration, on the other hand, directly links different apps at a functional level. It is very much a real-time sharing of information between online transaction processing (OLTP) systems and requires some sort of enterprise application integration (EAI) middleware that enables two (or more) different applications or databases to communicate quickly and easily with each other. In short, application integration often actively manages the flow of information between applications, often via an application programming interface (API). This can become even more complicated when integrating on-premises legacy systems with newer, cloud-based services.
So why is it important to know the difference between data and application integration? Because when evaluating integration platforms – especially platforms for on-premises and cloud-based services integration – it’s easy to forget that they can require different sets of platforms and methodologies to accomplish what they do. Think of it this way – data integration is about simply combining data sets from multiple sources while application integration transforms and transports data from one application to another. Some EAI solutions, such as Flowgear, are designed to seamlessly and automatically integrate both data and applications to help streamline and simplify the hybrid enterprise IT environment.
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