Author: Nathan Renner
Modern enterprises are built on hundreds of applications: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Resource Management (HRM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM) are the biggest. In addition, you have countless custom and off-the-shelf applications that fulfill more specific use cases. All of these applications are interconnected by communicating in a never–ending stream of files, messages, and events using an alphabet soup of formats: REST, SOAP, JSON, RPC, FTP, ETL, etc. These formats have their own standards, protocols, and idiosyncrasies.
All of this is expensive to maintain, fragile, and difficult to test. Fortunately, integration platforms can solve these challenges.
What is an Integration Platform?
Integration platforms are designed to build integrations easily and reliably. They provide simple ways to connect applications, often using prebuilt connectors, and they operate independent of application architecture or file formats.
Typically structured using a “hub and spoke” model, integration platforms allow one system to broadcast a message and notify other applications that can then decide how to process it.
Let’s take the example of a new hire: The Human Resource Management system processes the new hire and needs to notify the user management database to provision their account. CRM and ERP need to be notified to grant permissions. Building access needs to be granted. A laptop needs to be provisioned.
Rather than building each of those integrations separately, an integration platform allows you to publish one message and every system gets to determine what to do with it. Some systems ignore it completely, while the systems that care can immediately respond.
Why should I use an Integration Platform?
Integration platforms bring a host of benefits:
Simplified Architecture – Not only do integration platforms allow you to minimize the number of integrations, they simplify those integrations. In our example above, each system consuming the new hire message will translate and process the message independently. The HRM doesn’t need to know whether each system is running RESTful services or SOAP, it simply publishes a single message.
Decreased Maintenance Cost – Reduced costs often go hand-in-hand with simpler designs. Fewer integrations and fewer message formats mean less time spent investigating and resolving issues.
Minimize Infrastructure – Many modern integration platforms are cloud native, meaning you don’t have to provision local servers.
Prebuilt Connectors – Remember the list of applications we had to integrate to onboard our new hire? Many of those applications will have pre-built connectors to common integration platforms. As a result, your team will do more configuration than development, which is faster, less error-prone, and easier to maintain.
Increased Reliability – Integration platforms have built-in capabilities to ensure messages are delivered. Messages sent when systems are down will be delivered as soon as those systems are restored. Thus, support staff no longer needs to figure out which files were processed and reload the remainder of them manually.
Support for Modern Architectures – Integration platforms are well-suited to modern architectures and technologies. They navigate hybrid (cloud and on-prem) environments transparently. In addition, they work well with small, real-time messages, such as those that drive IoT solutions and modern microservice environments.
The Bottom Line
Business critical applications require timely and accurate information. However, they are often connected by a complex web of fragile integrations. Fortunately, integration platforms can help you connect core applications simply and reliably while reducing cost and supporting modern architectures.
Noah Benedict leads RevGen’s Digital Enablement practice. He is passionate about using technology to advance business and empower his clients to embrace new opportunities.
Nathan Renner is a senior architect in RevGen’s Digital Enablement practice. He is passionate about designing and developing technical solutions that make a difference.