Everything you Need to Know About Integration Architecture

Break down data silos with integration architecture. Discover the benefits, challenges, and how iPaaS can help.

January 2, 2024

A look at integration architecture in 2023: download our latest State of Enterprise Integration Report

What is integration architecture?

Integration architecture is a collection of strategically selected infrastructure, services, protocols, and systems that serves as the foundation for integrating enterprise applications and data. Often the domain of an enterprise IT architect or integration leader, integration architecture facilitates automation, real-time data and analytics, and connected business workflows. 

Companies that have well-designed integration architecture in place have the flexibility to experiment and scale with all kinds of connected workflows. Because data moves freely through their systems and applications can communicate with one another efficiently, these companies are more likely to succeed at digital transformation and achieve more faster than their less streamlined counterparts. 

Comparing different types of integration architecture

Integration architecture has advanced from simple, point-to-point connections to enterprise integration platforms that support thousands of services and applications. Companies with complex integration needs often run multiple models, from hard-coded legacy deployments to a collection of modern APIs.  

Point-to-point vs. hub-and-spoke

Point-to-point (P2P) integration is a traditional method that connects two applications with either custom code or APIs, syncing data between them in regular intervals. Point-to-point doesn’t handle complexity and volume well, so engineering teams usually adopt other models as their integration needs grow.

Hub-and-spoke architecture is a common alternative to P2P. Traditionally, the hub-and-spoke model creates a central hub through which all integrations pass. In this case, the hub acts as the primary point of processing and routing for data exchanged between various applications (“spokes”). Over the years, the hub-and-spoke model has evolved to meet the needs of companies that have migrated some or all of their systems to the cloud, an improvement made possible by modern integration platforms.

The evolution of service-oriented architecture (SOA)

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is an approach to development that relies on reusable, connected services to run business processes and build software functionality. Both hub-and-spoke and enterprise service bus (ESB) models apply this approach in different ways—in hub-and-spoke, each service is a spoke that sends data through the centralized hub, while an ESB allows services to integrate more modularly.  

A simple example of SOA’s benefits lies in authentication. Rather than hard-code authentication into each application, developers use an enterprise service like Okta or auth0, connecting it once to integration platform and applying it wherever it’s needed. 

Implementing SOA architecture used to require a top-down, expensive overhaul with major time and vendor commitments, but today’s integration platforms allow for cost-effective, incremental improvements at scale. Most enterprises use an iPaaS, ESB, or both to manage integrations within this framework. 

The enterprise service bus (ESB)

The enterprise service bus, or ESB, came about as a new way of exposing integrations synchronously across older and newer enterprise systems through a message bus. As they evolved, ESBs became more decentralized to eliminate single points of failure, allowing developers to plug different applications into the bus without necessarily needing an infrastructure component.

The integration platform as a service (iPaaS)

An integration platform as a service, or iPaaS, is a platform developers use to build and manage any combination of these architectures and models in a scalable way. It includes features like reusable components, a low-code interface, managed infrastructure, prebuilt integrations, and enterprise support. 

Integration platforms enable a more flexible iteration of hub-and-spoke architecture, where not every integration is required to run through a single, centralized location. Instead, developers can manage multiple integration patterns on a single platform, applying global rules and configurations across the entire system. This allows for a more distributed and efficient flow of data, tailored to specific business needs.

For example, consider a scenario where data from a product analytics tool is sent to a data lake for use in a business intelligence (BI) platform, as well as triggering actions in the product itself. Simultaneously, structured data from your CRM might be directed to a separate data warehouse, but eventually, it also feeds into the same BI tool to provide a fuller picture of customer activity in your product. In this case, the “hub” is the integration platform—within this hub, data flows in various ways, each optimized for specific goals and efficiencies.

The iPaaS is the gold standard for enterprise integrations. It allows developers to connect applications and data without ripping and replacing legacy systems, adding technical debt, or requiring months of specialized training. No matter how complex integration needs, digital transformation can be done safely and modularly, protecting existing systems while modernizing business processes. 

Two key use cases of enterprise integration architecture

Your integration architecture should serve two main purposes: connect applications to enable process automation, and connect data to enable real-time analytics, transparency, and AI. 

Application integration

The first use case is application integration, or connecting the applications that power your business. This makes workflow automation and complex business processes possible at scale.

The average enterprise has thousands of applications deployed. Application integration is the process of connecting them using one or more of the aforementioned models, with the goal of optimizing efficiency and cost while protecting company data. 

Data integration

The second use case is data integration, or the process of connecting multiple sources and enabling the real-time flow of data across the organization. Enterprise integration architecture enables cloud integration, where data from both legacy and on-premise systems is securely integrated and accessible in the cloud. This opens up a world of possibilities where real-time data can be used to improve the customer experiment, implement AI workflows, and experiment freely with new technology while protecting underlying systems.

The benefits of enterprise integration architecture

When companies try to build their own integration architecture or make do with a budget solution, IT often spends more time managing it than putting their integrations to good use. As the number of systems that need integrating grows—especially a mix of legacy, on-prem, and cloud tools—the technical debt and workarounds become too cumbersome.   

Enterprise integration architecture is a secure, scalable solution set built for large companies that must manage hundreds or more applications and tools. iPaaS, API management, and [data] platforms typically have enterprise-grade features like built-in security and access controls, high availability and redundancy, and global configurations that let developers spend less time on maintenance and governance. Some also allow users to work in a low-code UI, allowing generalized and junior developers to build integrations without special training.  

By investing in enterprise integration architecture, IT teams see a host of benefits:

  • Reduced labor costs – Specialized integration developers are often hard to find or expensive to hire. Enterprise integration architecture already includes solutions for much of the work these developers would do—the in-house engineering team can build integrations using resources they already have. 
  • Scalability and performance – Enterprise platforms like the iPaaS are built on cloud-native, managed infrastructure that scales as integration needs expand. These services provide more reliability than something self-managed and often come with SLAs that guarantee uptime.  
  • Security and compliance – Another built-in feature of enterprise architecture, security controls and governance features make it easier for developers to adhere to privacy laws, manage access, and ensure data is encrypted as it flows through multiple applications and warehouses. 
  • Enhanced data visibility – When data from every source and application runs through a well-governed platform, analysts can confidently explore, share, and build products on top of it. 
  • Increased productivity – Enterprise architecture, especially its low-code components, takes a large portion of manual work and maintenance off developers’ plates. Not only do they have more time to dedicate to other development work, the integrations they build amplify productivity across any team using them.
  • Improved customer satisfaction – Connecting enterprise processes and data makes it easier to provide fully informed, real-time customer support. The product team can also use these integrations to build customer-facing dashboards and incorporate real-time data into the user experience. 

What to consider when choosing your integration architecture

To embrace enterprise integration architecture, you’ll need to invest in an integration platform as a service (iPaaS). An iPaaS typically has scalable, reusable components that make it easier for the general developer to manage multiple integration models and thousands of applications and services in one place, plus the ability to integrate with best-in-class API and ETL solutions.

The integration platform market is complex. Some solutions require specialists and extensive training, while others will help you move quickly and efficiently toward modernizing your integrations. Take a look at this guide to understand which iPaaS solutions are available, the pros and cons, and how to make a decision as an iPaaS buyer.

Here are some top features to look for:

  • A low-code integration builder – Any developer should be able to easily create integrations using a visual interface that requires no specialized training.
  • Composable building blocks – Pre-built connectors or Capsules that developers can use to quickly build complex, enterprise integrations. 
  • Ongoing integration monitoring: The ability to centrally monitor and manage integrations with automatic alerts for potential issues.
  • Built-in governance: Global security and access configurations, secure test and production environments, and audit intervals. 
  • Scale and high availability: Managed infrastructure that leverages autoscaling and load-balancing capabilities to ensure high performance.
  • Easy integration with API management and ETL solutions – the platform should allow you to connect the API and data services of your choice.

Digibee: an integration platform built for scale

Digibee is the only integration platform that scales application integration workflows while reducing cost, technical debt, and the burden on development teams. It allows developers to deploy any integration model they like, quickly building, testing, deploying, and monitoring every integration from one flexible platform. 

To learn more, take our product tour or request a personalized demo from our sales team.

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