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It is often tempting to think of "integration"solely in terms of the latest hype, whether it’s electronic procurement, Web services, or technology such as XML. Yielding to this temptation, however, eliminates broad categories of business processes and problems that require sharing of data among the underlying applications.

Even before the industry began focusing on application integration, business process integration, and extending business processes to external constituencies, many organizations had already begun to take steps in those directions. Often, the "integration"was very much at arm’s length – a company outsourcing its payroll to an independent payroll processor might send magnetic tapes containing new payroll data for each pay period. The company’s HR systems were "integrated" with the payroll processor’s check preparation systems by transferring files of data. However crude the mechanism appears to have been by today’s standards, this was still an early form of data integration.

As computer networks became ubiquitous and network connections between organizations became more cost-effective, more sophisticated forms of data integration became necessary. Automated sharing of data was rapidly recognized as the way to improve both productivity and cost efficiency for integrating applications and processes. The Internet further drove down the costs of automated file transfer by eliminating the need for leased lines or dedicated networks between organizations.

While much of the literature on application and B2B integration focuses on specific processes such as procurement, supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM) or Web commerce, there are many other classes of business activity that require some level of application integration. Many of these activities are particular to specific verticals, such as the transfer of ACH or ATM data to back-end processing systems in financial services, or the exchange of claims processing data between medical providers and insurers in the healthcare industry.

Now that organizations are realizing the benefits of integrating data, there are requirements that must be in place to make it a success. Whether internal or external, data integration requires a robust infrastructure for data delivery.

Requirements for Data Integration

Infrastructure for application integration is comprised of three main layers: data transport interface, data exchange services, and user/ application interface.


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