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The difference between data and application integration

March 13, 2019

What is the difference between data integration and application integration, and why is the difference important for companies that are considering moving to the cloud? Data integration has been around for a while, but application integration is a relative newcomer with different, more complex challenges.

Data integration is the process of combining information from two different sources so that a user has a unified view of the data. The process is often performed with an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, or for a data warehouse. For an ERP, it frequently involves taking data out of specialized line-of-business applications and combining it with existing information, such as sales orders and inventory data; for a data warehouse, it’s the process of extracting, converting, and uploading data from a variety of sources into the data warehouse database for review and analysis. Data integration is not necessarily conducted in real time, although the insatiable appetite in enterprises for more and more data is certainly driving up demand for real-time integration.

This does not mean that data integration is a simple, boring operation that’s been around for so long it’s no longer an issue, or even very interesting. In fact, when it’s done right, data integration achieves four objectives:

  1. standardizes data
  2. provides data portability
  3. eliminates redundancy
  4. ensures data quality

This is not as easy as it might appear.

Application integration, on the other hand, directly links different applications at a functional level. It is very much a real-time sharing of information between online transaction processing systems, and requires some sort of enterprise application integration (EAI) middleware that enables different applications to communicate quickly and easily with each other. 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.

The difference between data and application integration is important when evaluating integration solutions – especially solutions for on-premises and cloud-based services integration. The different types of integration can require different sets of platforms and methodologies. While data integration is about combining data sets from multiple sources, 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 enterprise IT environment.

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