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Find out how application integrations can transform your business operations and discover the types of solutions available.


Application Integrations Explained

Posted by Angela Davis on August 16, 2023
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If you work in a modern business, you’ve likely heard of application integration before. Also known as app integration, this isn’t a single process but multiple apps, across different business use cases, that share information. Ideally, this information should be communicated without delay, making access fast and easy for the user.  

The term “application integrations” (i.e. connecting different applications) can refer to either the front-end result, which your staff use every day, or the back-end processes. So, we need to be clear that in this article we’re discussing the whole process of integrating your business systems, from the back end to the front.  

To start with, let’s define exactly what application integration is.

What is application integration?

Unlike data integration, which it’s sometimes confused with application integration, is focused on connecting different apps. The idea is to facilitate apps working together and easily sharing information, ideally in real-time or as close to it as possible. 

Many modern organizations use a host of different cloud applications as well as on-premises software apps, but few of these connect natively. This means specialized application integration solutions are required to join them together and allow data to flow seamlessly across your organization. 

This means the demand for integrated digital platforms has been growing exponentially, with API integration platforms, for example, becoming increasingly popular among forward-thinking businesses. 

There are four levels of application integration, which all work together. Let’s take a look at these below.  


A graphic of a computer. 

Image source


If you think of application integration as a decorating project, then presentation-level integrations are the primer. They involve taking applications that don’t communicate, routing their output through middleware, then transmitting the results to a single interface. 

The applications aren’t communicating after this step, but the user can see all the information they might need in one place.  

Business process

The presentation level affects what the user sees, while the business process integration allows apps to actually work together and, importantly, share information. 

Currently, this means transferring to cloud-based architecture for a lot of companies. This option allows IT systems to quickly adapt to new processes. There’s more than one way to do this, but integrating or changing your existing processes is essential.

The process level helps create smooth integrations into new technology for enterprise-level end-users.

Many iPaaS (integration platform as a service) solutions exist for this purpose, and there are also several hybrid solutions that can accommodate legacy systems and SOA/ESB structures. You’d expect to see automation and AI-assisted workflow management in most, if not all, of these. 

As business users often need flexibility, hybrid solutions allow them to work with existing systems while transferring to a newer architecture, rather than overhauling their entire IT infrastructure in one go. 


Enterprise application integration is all about data and the back-end architectures that control it. We know this, but confusion still exists for many users and providers in the enterprise user market. 

That might be because we often get told that “Data integration is not app integration”. That’s true, but data integration is an essential level in it.  

A graphic dissecting EAI solutions.

Image source

Your business data, customer data, and other data sources need to integrate into your new digital solutions or they won’t be of much use to you. That’s not easy when you’re dealing with data that’s transmitted in different ways from multiple different applications. 

Data integration usually means translating data output from separate apps into a single usable format. It can also involve writing custom code structures to allow different apps to communicate. 


At the communications level, we get to the specifics of how data is transmitted within your systems. There are three different methods that are commonly used: hub-and-spoke, point-to-point, and ESB (enterprise service bus). 

Point-to-point is a direct communication method, which lets apps send and receive data.

Hub-and-spoke designs use a middleware layer to route communications between apps. This middleware handles the transformation of data within networked applications. 

Finally, ESB systems build on the hub-and-spoke design. Each system is decoupled from the others and only communicates through a central “bus”. This provides a system that scales easily and has a central system for monitoring and troubleshooting. 

The communications level is also where we use application programming interfaces (APIs) to bridge the gap between the technology stack, its codebase, and the business processes and data that create the flow of information within.  




The benefits of an application integration strategy 

So, how can application integration benefit your business? Let’s take a look.  

For operations

Application integration offers many operational benefits, especially in regard to time, cost, and performance.  

These include:

  • The ability to access data from anywhere. Modern businesses often have data dispersed across multiple environments. With the right integration tool, any system can access this data, no matter the format or type of data being retrieved.  
  • Endpoint individuality resolution.  Every system and application will have its idiosyncrasies, from its authentication protocols to its error handling. Integration tools that can manage these will deliver improved productivity and greater resiliency.  
  • Frees your integrators to focus on integration. Specially designed tools can free your integrators up too, so they’re less consumed by infrastructures and able to concentrate on building business logic instead. They also make it easier to create integration flows without requiring in-depth knowledge of multiple different platforms and domains. 

For your organization

Integrating your apps across various clouds is also vital to synchronize your data. If you can facilitate the deployment of integration runtimes in multiple cloud environments, the result will be lower costs, due to not needing to move data between platforms, and reduced latency times, as processes can run directly from the cloud.  

If you don’t feel ready for a complete overhaul, hybrid integration can help bridge the gap and deliver many of the same benefits.

Types of application integration solutions for different business needs

1. Enterprise service bus (ESB)

As we mentioned above, ESB systems have a similar design to hub-and-spoke ones. They’re created to be more efficient than the latter but still account for the middleware and legacy systems that enterprise clients so often bring.

2. Enterprise application integration (EAI)

EAI is a more simplistic method of integration than ESB. It can be used to refer to the older hub-and-spoke systems. Unfortunately, this specific method can introduce even more middleware to systems that already have too much.

3. Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)

iPaaS services are becoming an increasingly viable option for enterprises looking to get the most out of their digital transformations. 

If you’re thinking, “What is iPaaS?”, you’re not alone. An integration platform as a service provides a set of automated tools that integrate software applications deployed in different environments.  

Though some organizations might prefer older methods, iPaaS is the easiest solution for many business types. A single interface, a usable reporting system, and a team on hand to help with training and development are just some of the benefits of iPaas. 

The issue with both ESB and EAI, in comparison, is that they require highly skilled individuals for projects that often have long durations.  

Application integration examples and use cases

When Delek Motors wanted to progress its digital transformation into application integration, it partnered with OpenLegacy. It leveraged the OpenLegacy platform to work with its Microsoft CRM and IBM AS/400 applications. 

This particular partnership produced a 20% Salesforce productivity improvement for Delek and created a good foundation for their later work with digital restructuring.  

According to Ruth Hirsch, Deputy CIO at Delek Motors: “The Microsoft CRM implementation is part of a bigger project at Delek to combine legacy applications with new technologies, offering our users uniform and friendly interfaces. OpenLegacy made the integration between the AS/400 applications and the CRM fast and painless.”

Enhance your application integration strategy with OpenLegacy

Application integration strategies inevitably take time. There are multiple phases and many separate roll-outs, for example of new processes or technology, before you’re finished. 

As in the example above, just because you’ve had success with one part of your digital restructuring, doesn’t mean the work is done. In fact, most would say that the work of improving a business is never really finished.  

What the Delek Motors example does tell us, though, is that you can have many big (or small) wins along the way. You might not be able to set these in stone at the start of your project, but you can celebrate your successes as you go, just like you would with any project milestone. 

Partner with OpenLegacy, and develop an application integration strategy that gives your digital transformation the boost it deserves. 



FAQs about application integrations

What are some common strategies in application integration?

Three strategies that we commonly see are:

  • Point-to-point. This involves direct communication between applications. It normally necessitates a highly skilled and tech-heavy implementation process. 
  • Hub-and-spoke (or EAI). A strategy involving a “hub” system with several “spoke” applications. This process is designed to work with middleware-heavy and legacy systems. It tends to add more middle layers. 
  • ESB or iPaaS. Two popular choices for application integration in 2023. ESB adds processors to each “spoke” in a hub-and-spoke system while iPaaS systems take a user-first approach. This results in a highly usable interface that does most of the good work of an ESB system in the background. 

What are the challenges of application integration?

The three most common issues that affect application integration projects are: 

      1. A lack of data accessibility. Even for the most tech-savvy companies, data inaccessibility can be an issue. This is usually due to inadequate connections between cloud apps or certain data being left in on-premises legacy databases or aged apps.  
      2. Complexity. Application integration requires you to do more than merely connect one app to another. You have to understand exactly what’s happening to your data and the potential fallout from changing the status quo.
      3. A lack of information. Some companies are also guilty of providing inadequate training and information to users.  This can leave them unaware of how to use and take advantage of integrations. The solution is to keep detailed documentation that is easily accessible to users. 

What is the difference between application integration and data integration?

Data integration is one part of application integration. In short, data integration is the phase of application integration that involves how you deal with the data coming from your separate apps, where it’s going, how it’s translated, and how it’s stored. 

Our four-level breakdown of an application integration project above goes into more detail. 

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