Types of B2B Application Integration
B2C (business to consumer) gets a lot of publicity, including TV commercials, financial profiles, etc. But everyone knows the real money is in B2B (business to business). This short excerpt from Approaching E-business Integration can help you make some solid B2B integration decisions.
When contemplating B2B application integration for your organization, you must first understand the sum and content of the business processes and data in your organization. IT also needs to understand how these business processes are automated (or not automated, as the case may be) and realize the importance of all business processes. Depending on your enterprise, this may demand a significant amount of time and energy. Many organizations seek new methodologies to assist them in this process and use the opportunity to examine the best practices.
In brief, organizations must understand both business processes and data. They must then use this understanding to determine which processes and data elements require integration. This process can take on several dimensions, including these:
- Data-oriented B2B integration is the process of extracting information from one database, perhaps processing this information, and updating it to a database in another organization. This can be more difficult than it sounds, possibly involving numerous databases and tables. The primary advantage to this method is cost, since the applications can stay intact and the mechanisms necessary to move and reformat the data are inexpensive in comparison to other B2B application integration options.
- Application interface-oriented B2B integration refers to the leveraging of existing interfaces in custom or packaged applications, such as SAP, PeopleSoft, and Baan. Developers can bundle applications, allowing them to share business logic and information. This method is limited by the specific features and functions of the application interfaces.
- Method-oriented B2B integration is the sharing of the business logic that exists within the enterprise. For example, the method for updating a customer record may be accessed from any number of applications, within or between organizations. These applications may access each other's methods without having to rewrite each method within the respective application. Numerous mechanisms exist for sharing methods among applications. These include distributed objects, application servers, Transaction Processing (TP) monitors, frameworks, and a new application that combines two or more applications.
- Portal-oriented B2B integration is very popular thanks to the proliferation of the Internet. Using this approach, architects can integrate several applications accessible through one interface. Many popular portals (exite.com, yahoo.com) already do this. One page can have information from several sources. This method is advantageous because it avoids the complex and costly back-end integration.
- Process integration-oriented B2B integration is a sophisticated management system that places an abstract business-oriented layer over more traditional B2B information movement mechanisms. Process integration-oriented B2B application integration is at the top of the food chain in the world of B2B application integration, leveraging other types of B2B application integration, including data level, method level, and application interface level.