As our IT and technology industries continue to evolve, the functionality requirements for modern applications also need to keep up. The more systems are designed to connect with each other, the more imperative it is for businesses to be able to integrate emerging systems to achieve optimal efficiency and functionality. Businesses nowadays need to get their software integration on point.
But what is software integration and what are its benefits and challenges?
What is software integration exactly?
In software engineering, software integration involves combining component software elements known as subsystems (subroutines, software modules or programs) into a single system to enhance the functionality of an existing one. Systems that are integrated and centralised perform better than individual ones and deliver increased functionality that provides more value to users.
Having one integrated system also makes it easier to use and distribute across teams and organisations. Software integration also benefits organisations immensely by reducing operational costs and improving response time, saving time and money while delivering efficiency. Software integration engineers are often required to modify source code which can be tricky and time-consuming, but the benefits of integrated software far outweigh the time and effort required to achieve it.
The 4 types of integration methods
There are 4 primary methods of software integration that are most commonly used by software integration engineers. They are:
- Vertical integration
- Horizontal integration
- Star integration
- Common data format integration
The vertical integration method is where functional entities of subsystems are ‘vertically’ integrated according to their various functionalities. It is a basic and fast solution with limited functionality that forces engineers to add silos to effectively scale the system. This means you can’t create new functionality by reusing existing subsystems.
Horizontal integration (also known as Enterprise Service Bus) involves creating a subsystem that is used as a communication interface for other subsystems, effectively reducing all subsystem connections to one. This means each part of the system communicates with other parts via the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Horizontal integration is highly flexible: engineers are easily able to add, replace, or tweak certain parts of a system without interfering with others.
Star integration involves interconnecting subsystems to each other through point-to-point connections. Depending on the number of connected subsystems, the integration map looks like a star as each point connects to another. There is some flexibility available when it comes to reusing functionality but when more subsystems are added it requires more time to integrate, meaning higher costs.
Common data format integration
This approach, also known as Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), attempts to create a single application-independent format that is different from the application-specific one. Using the data transformation service, the Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) systems convert these two formats across enterprises.
The challenges of software integration
Software integration is a rather complex endeavour, so it is no surprise that it comes with certain challenges to implement successfully.
Choosing the right integration tool
Because software integration is highly beneficial for organisations, there are many tools available out there which is helpful but also make it difficult to pick the right one that will suit your requirements. To be on the safe side, we recommend choosing a software integration tool that supports hybrid integration.
Why? Because hybrid integration allows local applications to integrate seamlessly with cloud-based integrations. It reduces costs due to less reliance on hardware and centralises risk management of shared data.
Due to the rapid rate of evolution in the IT industry, integrated software solutions often don’t last very long thanks to the ever-changing environment of updates and improvements to systems. Most integrated systems are designed to serve a particular purpose, and when technological advancements create changes in the environment, it means the integration tools quickly become obsolete and need to be updated too.
Legacy system complications
Many organisations have monolithic architecture setups where independent software systems are interwoven with others, making it difficult (and in some cases impossible) for successful software integration. In most cases, it will require replacing the entire enterprise system for the sake of software integration, which is a complex task that takes time.
Why software integration may be right for you
Despite being a complex task, software integration has overwhelmingly positive benefits for organisations both big and small. When implemented correctly, software integration delivers:
- Improved data accessibility
- Reduced errors
- Quicker business processes
- Improved security
- Reduced costs
- Higher productivity and efficiency
- Improved data flow
With the ever-evolving technological industry powering our digital business landscape, it is crucial businesses leverage the benefits of software integration to keep up with the demands of the industry. It is important to remember that data integration is an ongoing process that requires continuous refinement and adaptation to industry demands.