Implement EAI, or just roll your own?
Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) is a class of IT solutions that allow any number of business systems to be integrated and managed as components of seamless business processes. Business processes managed under an EAI solution can be wholly within an organization, or they can be extended to customers, suppliers, and business partner systems--the holy grail of B2B. Over the past several years, EAI offerings from vendors such as IBM (Crossworlds), Neon, TIBCO, Vitria, and webMethods, have greatly increased in power and functionality, and they provide a practical solution to the real problem that many large and mid-size companies face with trying to manage a variety of packaged applications and legacy systems. Nevertheless, EAI solutions can be expensive and time consuming to implement. Therefore, we recommend the following guidelines when deciding whether a full-blown EAI solution is warranted.
(1) Point-to-point interfaces should be developed where only a small number of interfaces are required, either because the company is small or because systems are mostly from a single vendor. Furthermore, point-to-point interfaces may be the best solution when the focus is mainly short-term, with integration needed quickly and short term expense must be minimized.
(2) On the other hand, a true EAI solution is the best choice where many interfaces are needed, either because there are multiple systems in place or the company is taking a best-of-breed approach. EAI is also a good choice when a company is planning mergers and acquisitions that will further add to the complexity of systems. Finally, an EAI solution is often the best choice when total cost of ownership is considered. The licensing and implementation cost of the EAI system will add expense up front, but long term the savings will come as future interfaces are less costly to develop and maintain.