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EAI Integration-A Case Study

  • June 15, 2005
  • By Tarun Gupta
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This article presents an EAI integration scenario with a case study. The case study presented is a real-time project that was executed for a major European client. The name of the client has been reserved for confidentiality purposes. Seebeyond eGate software was chosen as the integration tool for this project.

The article starts with a brief overview of the fundamentals of the EAI initiative but expects the audience to have basic understanding of the EAI paradigm.

Brief Introduction to EAI

Today's business world is infinitely more complex than it was a long time ago. Modern companies have a large number of applications that take care of running the business. Such diverse applications weren't a problem initially because they were meant to provide stand-alone, independent, and automated functions. The result of this diversity was a collection of stovepipe applications rather than a unified network of linked systems. But now, the companies are realizing the utmost need to integrate these independent data silos to leverage the information stored in them across the various vertical and horizontal domains as well as surmount the ever-increasing costs of building new applications.

And this is where an EAI solution comes into the picture.

EAI is a collection of processes, software and hardware tools, methodologies, and technologies. When implemented together, they have the aim of consolidating, connecting, and organizing all the businesses computer applications, data, and business processes (both legacy and new) into a seamlessly interfaced framework of system components that allow real-time exchange, management, and easy reformulation of the company's mission-critical information and knowledge. It is an unrestricted sharing of data throughout the networked applications or data sources in an enterprise.

When designing an Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) solution, it is important to recognize that there are different levels of integration, each with its own requirements and considerations. Successful implementation of consistent, scalable, reliable, incremental, cost-effective EAI solutions depends on the standards and methodologies that we define for these levels. It must be determined how we need to share information:

  • Within an application
  • Between applications within an enterprise
  • Between enterprises
  • Directly with customers

Moreover, the solution should be based upon a multi-tiered, non-redundant, coarse-grained architecture that is enforced across the enterprise. This requires the total set of functions involved in the end-to-end integrated solution be provided by distinct layers, each providing unique and non-overlapping services as shown in Figure 1.

Click here for a larger image.

Figure 1: Multi-Tiered EAI Architecture

This architecture provides sufficient high-level consistency for interoperability and a certain degree of local freedom. For example, the architecture supports semantic diversity (different interpretations of the same data) and permits use of diverse technical tools and techniques. It also provides the basis for organizational responsibility and ownership of each layer. For example, business data persists at the application component layer and not in the middleware/EAI layer. Hence, this data is the responsibility of the application owners and not the middleware solution developers.

Business Case Introduction

Royal Wallace, a UK-based transportation company, is a global leader in the rail equipment and servicing industry. Its wide-range of products includes passenger rail vehicles and total transit systems. It also manufactures locomotives, freight cars, bogies, and provides rail-control solutions.

Because of the structure of its business, the Royal Wallace company has a presence in several countries across Europe and in North America, including the USA and Canada. And, each of these country-specific sites has its own dedicated legacy system such as SAP-based systems in UK and Germany, Oracle financials in Canada, and so on (see Figure 2).

Figure 2:As-Is Scenario

As can be seen in Figure 2, in the as-is scenario, these legacy systems are acting as independent data silos with absolutely no kind of data-sharing happening between them. If the German SAP system wants to procure something from any of its vendors, it does so by using some kind of manual process at its end. The same scenario is replicated for all the other systems, too. And, this is leading to a lot of data duplication taking place. For example, if two different systems are using the same vendor (say, Vendor A) for procuring white board markers, this vendor (Vendor A) information is getting stored at both the legacy systems. Also, this kind of scenario makes it impossible to leverage existing information across multiple systems.

Royal Wallace understands that, to survive the competition in today's fast paced economy and to reduce its time-to-market, it needs to put an integration solution in place as soon as possible. The integration model should integrate all the existing legacy systems irrespective of the platforms and operating systems that these systems are based upon. The model should take care of the various data formats that would pass through this integration scenario and apply the necessary transformation, translation, and data validation rules upon them. And last, but definitely not the least, this integration solution should be scalable enough such that any new system could be easily plugged into this solution in the future with minimal changes.

The integration model should provide:

  • Integration between the various legacy systems
  • Automated process for procurement of goods
  • Data transformation and translation logic according to the prescribed rules
  • Persistent storage mechanism for the data
  • Validation of business data to a certain extent
  • Connectivity to various drop zones and databases

Project Life Cycle

1. Design and Architecture

As seen in Figure 3, the EAI solution proposed would make use of the integration capabilities of the Seebeyond eGate software to seamlessly integrate the various individual legacy systems of the Royal Wallace company with the SAP-based purchasing order (PO) system.

SeeBeyond eGate Integrator is a fully J2EE certified and Web services-based distributed integration platform. It provides the core integration platform, comprehensive systems connectivity, guaranteed messaging, and robust transformation capabilities.

Click here for a larger image.

Figure 3: To-Be Scenario

In this scenario, the SAP-based PO system acts as a data hub for all the legacy systems such that all the procurement orders at Royal Wallace would be routed through this SAP based PO system. Also, Seebeyond is acting as the integration hub between the SAP-based PO system on one end and the legacy systems at the Royal Wallace company on the other, thereby enabling a bi-directional flow of data.

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