Contact us!

System integration – what are the different options?

When it comes to system integration, in recent years we have seen a shift from the more traditional point-to-point integrations hosted locally to event-driven platforms in the cloud. Companies today demand scalability, flexibility, higher security and the ability to observe what is (or is not) happening.

Despite the importance of system integration, it is still common to not have a clear strategy for it. You can read about the risks with not having an integration strategy here. But now, let us focus on the different types of system integrations out there.

Point-to-point integration

A point-to-point integration connects two systems and is often used by businesses with simpler integration needs. The integration has two ends (i.e. points), and data is transferred between the two systems. As a result, a system can have multiple integrations connected to it. With numerous systems, each with several integrations, the result is often referred to as spaghetti architecture, illustrating the complexity of the integrations resembling a tangled web. It's difficult to distinguish between the integrations, yet they all have clear connections and dependencies on specific systems.

Hosted on local servers

Regarding hosting, point-to-point integrations almost always reside on a local server, limiting their capacity. At Meta Bytes, we have assisted several companies facing this type of situation. They have a locally hosted, old legacy system, but no one has a clear understanding of what, when, or how things happen. Data transfer is often batched, and when the system was new and the data volume was low, it worked fine. However, five to ten years later, as the volume has increased, data transactions now take so long that they negatively impact daily operations. Eventually, everything crashes.

Since there is rarely any monitoring of data flows for point-to-point integrations, if an error occurs, you won't see it—you'll notice it.

Pros and cons of point-to-point integrations

Point-to-point integrations are not ideal if you need to integrate multiple systems, but they work well if you have a limited amount. It is also a good option if you:

  • Need a quick and straightforward integration
  • Have a very specific use case (e.g., if payment information needs to go from a webpage to a payment page)
  • Have limited resources

The disadvantages of point-to-point integrations often relate to scalability. If you plan to expand the number of systems, integrations, or functionalities in the future, it's a good idea to consider other options.

Consider the following if you are thinking about implementing point-to-point integrations:

  • All integrations must be maintained individually, which can be very time-consuming
  • If you need to integrate one of your systems with a new one, you'll need to create an entirely new connection between them
  • Monitoring, troubleshooting, and diagnosing integration issues can be challenging
  • You can’t reuse integrations because each one is designed to fit "its" two systems

If you have a large number of systems in your business that need each other's data, there are significantly better alternatives when it comes to system integration.

Integration platform

An integration platform is a cloud-based service that acts as a hub for all integrations in the business. Instead of separate integrations, everything is consolidated in one place.

You can think of the integration platform as a kind of control centre that, through coordination and orchestration, helps different systems and applications send data to each other in an organized manner. Moreover, it can translate the different languages of the systems and tailor their data, enabling the receiving system to understand and use the information.

With an integration platform, you gain access to your entire ecosystem of programs and applications and can choose to automate all or parts of your processes. Everything is event-driven, meaning the platform listens to various types of events (e.g., an order is placed) and immediately initiates a whole sequence of events with concrete actions in relevant systems that "subscribe" to that specific event. So, it's just a matter of connecting the systems that should respond to the different events.

As the integrations are not directly tied to the systems, it is much easier for you to replace existing systems or make major upgrades that could otherwise affect the connections. Thus, you can continually improve and expand your ecosystem without affecting your operations. An integration platform is simply a way to future-proof your business.  

A cloud-based platform

In contrast to locally hosted point-to-point integrations, the integration platform resides in the cloud. This means the capacity is essentially limitless, and as a business, you never have to worry about the data volume becoming too high. Resources scale according to your needs, and you only pay for what you use.

Data continuously flows between systems, and you can have total control over the flows through direct monitoring in the cloud. As a result, you'll notice any errors before they have a chance to affect your operational activities. Thanks to the cloud, there is also the possibility to create various types of dashboards and generate reports.

Pros and cons of an integration platform

An integration platform suits those with relatively complex integration requirements and has several advantages:

  • It's a scalable and flexible option that allows you to easily replace, add, and modify things – without affecting the systems
  • You gain an overview of your integrations and can see what's happening in real-time in the cloud

Disadvantages of an integration platform can include:

  • The cost, as it can often be a relatively significant investment
  • Being tied to a specific vendor if you choose an iPaaS (read more about Integration Platform as-a-Service).
  • The time aspect, as development and implementation often take time.

Other types of system integrations

EDI Flows

EDI stands for Electronic Data Exchange and is used by some companies to transfer various types of documents to or from suppliers and customers. It's about connecting an internal system with an external one by establishing electronic connections. These connections are based on a standardized and structured approach to facilitate communication between different systems.

Enterprise Service Buses (ESB)

An enterprise service bus functions somewhat like an integration platform but is more focused on providing a communication backbone for integrating different applications and services, while an integration platform has a broader scope. It not only handles communication but also various aspects of integration, including data mapping, process orchestration, and workflow automation. Integration platforms often offer a more comprehensive set of tools to build, manage, and monitor integrations.

There are several different ways to carry out a system integration, but more and more companies have started to show interest in event-driven platforms for easy scalability, monitoring, and flexibility.

We have assisted several companies in developing integration platforms and have a number of ongoing projects. Feel free to reach out to us if there's anything you'd like to know more about, or read more here.

Block Quote