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Glossary of Modern Systems Integration

These days systems integration often requires the integration of a number of different application systems both within an organisation and with third parties’ software including its partners, suppliers, customers or sub-contractors. In order to facilitate this, as well as recognising that such application will often need to be connected across networks, a modern suite of integration tools has been developed that are designed to reduce the code needed for any particular project thus reducing the risks and costs of totally bespoke software.

This has inevitably led to the development of a language to describe the various elements, features and sub-systems of these tools. This is an attempt to explain some of the more frequently referenced terms.

I’ve been quite a few meetings recently and found myself using a lot of technical terms and felt that non-technical stakeholder can quickly lost the thread of the conversation.  Hope this is useful to any non-technical stakeholder involved in an integration project and dealing directly with developers.

API – Applicaiton Programming Interface –  An API is an interface to a Software System which allows other Software Systems to interact with it.  For example your Software System might include an API which allows other software systems to connect to it and create new customer records to obtain a list of customers.

Enterprise Systems Integration. –  The integration of a number of (or all of) the application systems across an enterprise.

Web Services – A method of sending data between software systems.  When using Web Services to communicate between systems messages are sent via http usually in XML format.

HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol – All web pages accessed on the Internet are accessed via HTTP.  When typing an web address into your browser the webpage sent to you is sent using the HTTP protocol.  In systems integration we often talk about sending messages via HTTP, this simply means sending messages using the same common protocols as is used to deliver web pages over the internet.

XML – Extensible Markup Language – Is a format used to mark up data with descriptive information (Meta Data) and to give a structure to the data.  For example the following simple XML document shows an example of a very simple customer record:

<customer>

<FirstName>John</FirstName>

<DOB>01/09/1980</DOB>

</customer>

Rest  – A method or architectural style used in the development of API’s which send and receive data between systems using HTTP  OR What you will need after spending an hour in a meeting with techie’s using these terms…

Json – Javascript Object Notation – Pronounced Jason, like the name. This is a way of sending software objects in a fairly lightweight, cross platform manner.  This format is commonly consumed by javascript and does not include any data type information on objects property values.

Data Type  – The type of a data element.  Common data types include: String, Integer, Decimal, Datetime etc

Enterprise Service Bus – Hosted middleware which facilitates messages to be sent between systems.