This paper provides basic information about the Business Process Integration (BPI), and few technical approaches normally used to achieve it. It describes the need of business process integration, the growth and the benefit of this integration.
In today’s world, a business cycle consists of more number of applications. In the current business scenario, these applications are needed to communicate with each other to complete a business cycle. Organizations invest lots of money in the business process to integrate all these business applications. This may be due to the disconnected application infrastructure. That is, each application is running in different environment and uses variety of data methods and communication formats. Normally, this integration is done through the ISVs. They facilitate integration by performing functions analogous to those of centralized EAI middleware, from supporting binding to routing messages among the services provided by the different companies. This involves lots of investment. Some business professionals think that this integration of these applications is costly without adding any value to the customers. Thus the business professionals want to integrate these applications with a much better way. This paper provides basic information about the business process integration (BPI) and the technical approaches involved in this integration.
Business Process Integration (BPI)
In order to compete and win in today’s economy, organizations must seamlessly integrate business processes and technology within their company and across their entire digital marketplace.
As mentioned earlier, the number of applications involved in a business cycle is increasing day by day and needs to interact with each other. For e.g., in a business cycle, an ERP package may be running in X environment and may need to communicate with a CRM application which is running in Y environment. Thus the integration of these applications is forced to be a must. The process of integrating the business applications involved in a business cycle is referred to as business process integration (BPI). The BPI can be within the enterprise level or between the enterprises.
BPI – EAI and B2Bi
The business process integration can be classified according to the applications involved in the enterprises. If the integration is within the enterprise then it is known as EAI, and if it is within the enterprises then it is referred to as B2Bi.
Business may require integrating business applications within the enterprise level. If the integration of the applications is within the enterprise level, then this model is referred to as EAI. That is, the Internal Integration is EAI. It can not be used to enhance with the business partners. Enterprise application integration promises to allow the flow of information among different applications within disparate systems without the need for custom-built communication links, effectively solving client-server’s scalability and interoperability issues.
The integration of business applications which belong to different enterprises is refereed to as B2Bi. That is B2Bi is the integration between external applications/companies. For example, an ERP package running in one business vendor need to integrate with the Sales application of its partner. Thus the integration of these two applications in different enterprises is referred to as B2Bi. The core concepts behind these two terminologies are almost the same.
The following diagram shows the different kinds of Business Integration:
Fig.1: Business Process Integration - EAI and B2Bi
Technology Approach for Business Process Integration
The Business Process Integration is achieved by different technical aspects according to the business nature of the system. The following are the different approaches normally adopted for the BPI.
Enterprise Application Integration through EDI, is the first approach to achieving business process integration. This model brings the integration without incurring many of the issues associated with developing and maintaining customized, in-house solutions. It defines a structured way of integration. This business integration is based on pre-defined, fixed data formats like EDIFACT, ANSI X 12 etc. Thus, this model brings a concrete binding between these applications. EAI-EDI model makes better results for long term partnerships. The following diagram shows the sample model for the EAI-EDI model.
Fig.2.Sample diagram: Business Process Integration - EAI -EDI
EAI-EDI approach requires specialized dedicated resources. So, this approach is expensive in terms of resources. It lacks the quick response to the business changes and real time data exchanges because the communication is based on the fixed data formats. Since the integration is based on the agreed and fixed data format, it is difficult to add new business partners.
To overcome this, business was expecting a common data format which can be adopted by the applications whichever plays in the integration. The idea of using a common standard (XML) in business integration started here.
B2Bi with XML
In this model, the business applications are integrated through a platform neutral structured data format (XML). XML offers a way to “self-describe” data, so that information providers can readily specify the semantics of the encapsulated data in a form that the receiver of the data can easily interpret. Since XML itself describes the data, the needs of additional translators are eliminated. This approach provides flexibility for integration. The following shows the sample diagram for the B2Bi with XML approach.
Fig.3: Sample diagram: Business Process Integration - B2Bi with XML
Even though the B2Bi model provides a highly integrated and multi business oriented approach, it lacks in Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). That is, in SOA model, the business functionalities should be acted as a separate service. Thus companies can use multiple clients and multiple client types to access a service.
XML Web Services
Web services are self-contained modular business applications that have open, Internet-oriented, standards-based interfaces. In this approach, the functionalities exposed by an application will be exposed as web services. These services can be accessed by independent clients. Web services provide dynamic integration for the clients. Thus, this is appropriate for third party vendors. Web Services provide businesses with the freedom to choose business partners with different platforms or components. The following diagram shows the basic block diagram of the XML Web Service approach.
Fig.4: Business Process Integration – Web Services model
Since Web Services enable different client applications to integrate, it brings effective business and good Return on Investment (ROI). It brings loosely coupled architecture, thus new business partners can be integrated very effectively with minimal time consumption.
To add more value on the Web Services industry, the following section of this paper will show a few case analysis on the growth of web Services.
Growth of Web Services – market forecast
Web Services started with 2000 with high expectations. Web services are widely regarded as the ‘next step’ in the evolution of application integration and interoperability. The technology is still young to a lot of software developers and industry professionals, but the IT industry is betting that this technology will bring down system integration costs by 20 percent. This alone could drive the adoption of Web services in the system integration market, which is expected to touch $142 billion in 2005.
IDC predicts that the total software, services, and hardware opportunity derived from Web services would rocket from $1.6 billion in 2004 to $34 billion by 2007.
Few of the analysis reports…
Report 1: Web Services market forecast portion of application integration, 2002-2007
Source: WinterGreen Research Inc.
Fig.5: Business Process Integration – Web Services Market forecast - WinterGreen Research Inc.
Report 2: Number of services listed with XMethods
Fig.6: Business Process Integration – Web Services Market Growth-XMethods
IDC forecasts that spending on enterprise integration will reach $50 billion in 2003. Gartner predicts that the Web services software market will reach $1.7 billion in 2003.
Gartner’s 2004 forecast is a hefty $5.1 billion market for Web services. Today, more than 180 ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) in India are developing solutions using .NET. 18 .NET solutions already exist and are ready for deployment.
Indian ISVs like Infosys, Wipro, Satyam and TCS were among the first few companies to develop Web Services using .NET.
Benefits of BPI
BPI brings the business to pursue new revenue opportunities through the integration of different business partners, with minimal cost. BPI makes a business to respond to its customers very quickly. BPI makes the business to plan and decide better. BPI provides less management time with all related decisions. BPI consumes minimum time for the technicians after the implementations. It provides flexibility in business to respond to competitive pressures and market needs.
In this article, we have seen what Business Process Integration is all about. The article also highlighted different technical approaches involved in this integration and how these business partners are integrated. This also notified the growth of Web Services with a few growth analysis reports. The maturing Web Services distributed model provides an ideal model for the business partners' integration. Web Services provide a loosely coupled architecture. Thus, the integration of business partners is very easily provided, everything is going smooth. Since XML Web Services are young to the market, it has a lack of security controls at the protocol level, and it has a lack of transaction management capabilities. The team in WS-I, OASIS is working for identifying to overcome this and to add more value on this.