Glossary

IT and integration areas have lots of terms and abbreviations. Here are the definitions most commonly used in the integration area. These blog posts and articles are linked to these terms for your convenience.

Accelerator

An accelerator is a generic name used to describe packaged functionality facilitating the creation of an integration connection to a line-of-business system. Accelerators usually include wizards that provide full no-code access to a system, whereas using an adapter requires more technical skills like SQL, for example. Wizards are common forms that users fulfil without needing more profound integration skills. This approach's problem is that they work fast in perfect case scenarios where the target system is used 100% standard way and is exactly the version that Accelerator supports. While they sound fast and efficient way to integrate, they are non-usable in most real-life use-cases where, for example, the data field of ERP is not used as intended, or the data is not clean.

Adapter

An adapter is a piece of software that provides an interface between business and enterprise management systems and a central integration platform. Most modern iPaaS come with prepackaged adapters for most common line-of-business systems, including ERPs and CRMs. Quite often Adapters are standalone programs that implement Connector as a service. (see connector)

Business Process Automation

Process-oriented automation or Business Process Automation (BPA) automates what the abstract process should do. It does not simulate what humans would do, but it executes the actual predefined business process or its technical parts. For example, the simplified Order-to-Cash (OTC) can go like this:

  1. Receive Customer Order
  2. Validate Order with rule-engine
  3. Upsert Customer order to CRM (Upsert = insert if new or update existing)
  4. Credit Check via API
  5. Order Entry to Line-of-Business (Lob) System via API
  6. Order fulfillment (wait for LoB)
  7. Trigger the Order shipment process via API and send the transport order to the logistics partner via API.
  8. The purchasing party received the ordered articles and confirmed them via API. Update order status in LoB and initiate invoicing process.
  9. Wait for the "Order Invoiced" status
  10. Payment Received - update Lob and end.

This kind of process automation can be done with BPA capable iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service), like Frends enterprise iPaaS. Note that in the Frends BPMN2.0, a diagram is also an executable code. Each Order -instance can be visually monitored with all the data that went through - or caused an exception. With an iPaaS, the process may be triggered directly from a website or by the purchasing party's ERP (or integration platform) via API exposed by the iPaaS. The iPaaS or automation platform executes the process using interfaces of the line-of-business system and external interfaces, for example, checking the credit

Business integration

Business Integration is the process and integration work of combining different enterprise systems so they may interact with one another. For example, without business integration, all data must be updated manually across systems like ERP and CRM, which is impossible in most enterprises and organizations. Business Integration is a subset of Business Process Automation (BPA).

CRM systems

Customer Relationship Management, CRM, is a term for methods and software used by a company to manage customer relations. Customer Relationship Management software commonly stores the customer data collected by sales personnel. CRMs include step-by-step execution of the sales funnel and are the primary source for sales reporting. CRMs are pretty often chosen as the Master for customer data. Integrations to and from CRM are one of the most common integrations.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing itself refers to an approach where computational power comes from a supplier with enormous hardware resources.

Benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing decrease the cost of service

Cloud Computing giants can leverage and share vast amounts of computational power from data centres compared to traditional computation service providers. Moreover, these giants, like Azure and AWS, minimize their resources' idle time, thus offering a significantly lower cost for capacity than the situation where everyone has their hardware. When doing things "big," these cloud vendors make essential things like security and availability affordable to smaller customers and players like SaaS providers.

All modern integration platforms (iPaaS) run their core in the CloudCloud. For example, Frends is available in Azure and European Compliant Cloud Cleura.

Cloud computing eases Maintenance and Management

Instead of managing, updating and maintaining the underlining infrastructure by the actual consumers of computational power, that burden is taken care of entirely by the Cloud Computing service provider.

Having someone else to take care of essential infra is also quite attractive to the consumer of the services. They do not need to maintain an expensive skillset of infrastructure know-how to provide the same services effectively.

An integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a basic use case for Cloud Computing. Hence, Cloud offers an easily manageable and scalable environment for integration platforms.

Agile and cost-effective software development

Cloud computational services typically allow developers to programmatically deploy new resources and manage, for example, scaling on the fly. This programmatic approach enables developers to have the same environment regardless of data centre and provider, which minimizes typical problems that occur in more traditional computational environments as each environment is slightly different from one another.

Cloud, Cloud Solutions

The cloud refers to one of the several infrastructure and software providers which offer a multitude of services and raw server capacity. Clients connect to the cloud via the Internet without needing to own capacity or infrastructure.

Cloud solutions or cloud computing means a solution that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet, for example, SaaS (Software as a Service).

Connector

Connector is a piece of software to connect to a specific system or standard interface. For example, Frends includes SFTP connector that implements the SFTP standard. Frends includes also SAP connector that is embeds the complexity of SAP interfaces thus making the integration development easier. Connector are commonly compiled to the result integration where as Adapters are indepent programs hosting connector. The end result is the same, but using Connectors is almost every time a faster solution.

Data Fabric

Historically, companies tried to solve the data-access problem with point-to-point integrations and centralized data hubs. Unfortunately, the point-to-point approach creates a messy integration spaghetti where costs and difficulties increase exponentially. Data hub or centralized control and data monitoring takes this into account but suffers from the siloed and ever-changing nature of enterprise data.

A data fabric is an architectural approach to data that tries to take the nature of data into account. Data is everywhere and changes a lot. In Data Fabric, a set of data services provide consistent capabilities across various endpoints spanning hybrid multi-cloud environments. It is an architecture that unifies data management practices and practicalities across Cloud, on-premises, and edge devices. For example, a business API layer in data fabric could contain GetCustomer API that fetches an enterprise-wide agreed set of customer data. GetProductionData API would be in the same format and structure, yet it could run on different cloud providers and API hosting platforms.

An iPaaS with multi-cloud support is a perfect platform to build data fabric services. Accordingly, due to the nature of the data fabric concept, you should not restrict the tooling but the architecture and rules of how data is provided and managed.

ERP systems

Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP, is a generic term for a software system that runs many business activities such as finances, resourcing, and HR. These functions typically come as modules, and ERP products vary significantly in which functions they support and which do not.

Modern ERPs include API-layer typically with the same business functions as UI offers, thus making it easier to integrate. Some older ERPs may include APIs, but sometimes these functions do not cover all the functionalities when using a user interface.

Hyperautomation

Consider Hyperautomation as an approach to "automate everything". Quite often Hyperautomation includes Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Process Automation (BPA) with a spice of AI inside the process. This approach uses AI for example to:

  • Make decisions within the orchestration to direct the process steps differently.
  • Decide what value is the correct parameter for a step.
  • Read images and documents into a digital format to be processed by the automation.

The automation level can be much higher by using AI as a part of the process that can make the decisions that humans formerly did. Both processes agnostic and process-oriented automation can utilize AI.

Integration Platform as a Service

Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a cloud platform that connects otherwise disjointed systems to deliver a unified solution to customers. It acts as a conduit for communication between multiple systems — allowing for integration and data sharing. Quite often iPaaS architecture allows hybrid and multicloud installations like Frends iPaaS does. It means that with single monitoring and development portal, you can execute process automations, integrations and host APIs in multiple different clouds and on-premises simultaneusly.

iPaaS gives organizations unlimited potential, and as we deepen our cloud dependency, iPaaS becomes integral to nearly every business model.

Most companies run on various systems, especially between their sales, marketing, and service departments. iPaaS is a solution that improves communication between different silos by integrating software and systems to better share data within and without the organization.

iPaaS also allows a company to expand its offering without the need to build out more services or further develop existing systems and services. Instead, it can integrate with another software that already provides that service and offer a unified, more robust solution to customers.

Intelligent Process Automation

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). See Hyperautomation.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices that include electronics, embedded software, and sensors and can have network access. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows these devices to be controlled remotely, or they can be sources of raw data, for example, a temperature sensor connected to the internet or other network. In addition, IoT enables direct integration with devices and components; for example, an integration platform can directly control or gather information from them. This data enables new efficient automations and even business opportunities. For example, an iPaaS can directly connect to office infrastructures like monitors, projectors, and audio devices. It can gather information via each device and store it in a database which the service company then uses to create preventive maintenance.

Master

A master is a System of Record (SOR) or a device from which the data originated. Sometimes master may refer to a system that the home for specific data based on a decision in data architecture. For example, the HR system is often the master for employee data.

A master may also refer to a system that controls other systems or devices (slaves).

Multi-cloud

The term multi-cloud refers to the use of more than one cloud provider. Whilst concentrating on one cloud provider might give you volume discounts, multi-cloud offers excellent benefits.

  1. You can choose best-of-breed services. For example, you can use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) from Azure and Image to Text AI from AWS, whichever suits your needs best.
  2. Avoid a single point of failure by making your service redundant by putting it into two cloud providers.
  3. Avoid cloud vendor lock-in.

The cons are also there.

  1. The complexity of managing two vendors instead of one
  2. No volume discounts equal higher costs
  3. No centralized control and monitoring

Modern integration platform like Frends solves the third challenge. With Frends, you can deploy integration execution units called Agents to every cloud platform. Frends low-code visualizes the processes, and you can run them across multiple cloud platforms with single and centralized development, control and monitoring.

Spaghetti Integration

Point-to-point integration is an antipattern where integrations are made directly from one system to another. They are developed with the "best" technology of each era and deployed into a corner of a random server. Sometimes they are hosted in the integrated system itself.

Henry, the Heroic coder from the IT department, used to do these with PHP, after which Cora, the Cowboy coder, continued with his Python scripts. Both scheduled their scripts with separate Cron instances somewhere in the jungle of different servers. Over the years, tens or hundreds of integration point-to-point scripts accumulate. Think of one such script that executes a single data stream as one spaghetti ribbon. The consequence of this kind of hero integration is a network resembling a heap of spaghetti, to which making changes has unforeseen consequences. Also, changing one system from this spaghetti is surprisingly tricky. The integration links to and from the replaced system break and not all of the connections are even known — as Henry and Cora were notoriously lazy documenters of their code. And most importantly - centralized control of data flows is impossible.

System of record

A system of record (SOR) or source system of record (SSoR) is an information system that stores the master or authoritative elements of data. For example, quite often Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is chosen to be the master source for Customer's basic information like phone numbers and addresses.