What is application integration?

Organizations rely on more applications than ever to successfully run their businesses. According to a recent report, the average number of software as a service (SaaS) applications used by organizations worldwide has jumped from 8 in 2015 to 110 in 2021. That’s an increase of close to 1,300% in only six years, and it doesn’t even take into account any legacy on-premises applications that companies use.

It’s safe to say that applications will continue to play a major role in business operations for the foreseeable future. Of course, all of those applications create and consume data, which can lead to both substantial challenges and opportunities. Application integration can help solve challenges like data silos and data redundancy by making it easy for applications to share data and provide the business with advanced capabilities and insights.

Application integration definition

Unlike data integration, which is a broader practice of combining data from different sources into a single, unified view or location such as a data warehouse, application integration connects different applications. This allows them to work together and share information among themselves, often in real time or near-real time.

Most organizations today rely on a combination of on-premises software applications and cloud applications, but few (if any) of those applications can natively connect together. That’s where specialized application integration solutions come in. These solutions are purpose built to connect different apps together in multiple configurations, so data flows seamlessly throughout the organization and can be used beyond the application in which it originated.

What are the types of application integration?

The most basic form of application integration is point-to-point integration. When two applications need to share information, developers can build a custom integration to let the applications connect with one another. Of course, this type of integration presents numerous challenges, primarily around scalability. Businesses add and change applications and systems all the time, and what businesses need from those apps also changes. Hand-coding a connection for each new application or use case is simply unsustainable long-term. For virtually any modern business, a more efficient way is needed.

To solve the scalability challenges presented by point-to-point connections, many organizations have chosen to implement an application integration architecture that provides a central messaging interchange to manage connections among different applications. These two architectures are hub and spoke integration (also called enterprise application integration, or EAI) and bus integration (also called enterprise service bus, or ESB).

While their methods differ (and some would argue ESB is a type of EAI), both architectures are middleware solutions designed to eliminate the need for point-to-point integration. In an EAI or ESB scenario, if we assume a company uses nine applications and wants to add a tenth, that new application would only need to connect to the hub or bus to communicate with the existing applications, rather than needing to have a separate connection built to each. Until recently, EAI and ESB have been the most popular types of application integration. However, they are used primarily for legacy systems and on-prem applications.

As businesses and business operations shift to the cloud, a new type of application integration is required. An integration platform as a service, or iPaaS, is a modern application integration solution that often provides a suite of other capabilities, including cloud-based data integration tools, API management and publishing capabilities, and other data management functions. An iPaas solution offers connectors and application programming interfaces (APIs) to streamline communication between connected applications and can integrate any combination of on-premises applications, web applications, and web services.

What is an example of application integration?

Different business processes require different types of data, and application integration can help ensure these business processes run as efficiently as possible. For example, supply chain management systems, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions like Salesforce, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like SAP that help an organization manage multiple aspects of its business often rely on application integration to communicate with and share data among other business applications. This includes things like e-commerce platforms, marketing automation software, and web analytics applications.

Why is application integration important?

For use cases like those mentioned above, application integration helps reduce data redundancy and improve data quality by ensuring multiple copies of the same data don’t lead to inconsistencies down the road. When these types of separate applications can’t communicate, they create data silos that reduce efficiency, scalability, and transparency into where data originates and how it is manipulated. In short, it creates an unhealthy data environment.

In addition to helping eliminate data silos, a well-implemented application integration solution can provide numerous other business benefits:

  • Improved productivity: Instead of spending countless hours building and rebuilding point-to-point integrations, employees can spend more time actually using data to help meet business objectives
  • Better scalability: With APIs and connectors, organizations can connect a wider variety of applications faster, and support deeper, more robust integrations
  • Reduced costs: Creating and maintaining point-to-point integrations by hand is a time-consuming process, and time is money. A modern application integration solution reduces the hours – and costs – associated with manually managing hundreds of individual integrations
  • Faster time-to-market: When every enterprise app is integrated and communicating with one another, it’s easier to get a more accurate, complete view of the business and make better decisions faster to propel the business forward
  • Easier adoption of emerging technologies: Many SaaS applications that provide application integration capabilities are at the forefront of supporting new technologies that help organizations get more value out of their data

What to look for in an application integration solution

There are many competing products that offer application integration capabilities, and it can be hard to know what to look for when choosing the best solution for your organization. When evaluating your options, here are some important points to consider:

  • How easy is it to work with? User interfaces can be needlessly complex and make even the most straightforward operations challenging. Choose a solution that is easy to work with on a day-to-day basis and can make your workflows more efficient.
  • Who will use it at my organization? Look for a solution that is accessible to the greatest number of people without sacrificing power or advanced capabilities. The more people who can use it, the faster and easier it will be to build even the most complex integrations.
  • How can it meet other needs? Even if you only plan to use it in a simple or limited capacity now, look for a solution that can grow with you. By choosing a platform that combines application integration with other data management capabilities, you can start small and scale effectively without needing to learn a new tool or spend more money on additional solutions with limited capabilities.
  • How flexible is it? Managed software is usually the first to support the latest advances in technology, so it can help you take advantage of new innovations faster than the competition. Choosing a cloud-based solution will ensure maximum compatibility with both legacy infrastructure and web-based applications, so that you’re not limited by the types of applications your organization uses.

Get started with application integration with Talend

Talend has everything you need to hit the ground running whenit comes to application integration. With more than 1,000 connectors and components and a powerful API development environment, it’s easy to start building whatever integrations you need, including scalable modular API, data as a service, pub/sub and point-to-point messaging, ESB, and more.

And as your needs grow, Talend will grow with you. Talend combines API and application integration, data integration, and data quality in a single, unified platform. Simple visual tools and wizards that cover the complete development lifecycle make it easy to design, test, document, implement, and deploy services and applications, eliminating the need for multiple tools or manual code.

And to ensure all your data is trusted data, you can use Talend’s built-in data quality services to design microservices that embed enterprise data quality components to validate, clean, standardize, and mask data in any format or size.

If you’re interested in learning more, we’d love to give you a demo so you can see how Talend can help you do more with your data.

Ready to get started with Talend?