“Our vision of what’s important is exactly the same today, bringing together the best systems and the best software to empower people with rich information solutions.”
Integration, or sharing data, between systems is the key to an OSS providing value-added connections. But how do you go about sharing information between applications? There are four main methods of integration between systems, as follows:
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – provide separation / demarcation between applications but also provide a common set of rules for communicating
- Database interfaces (triggers, shared tables, read/writes) – allow data reads/writes to be initiated on a database, eg using SQL (Structured Query Language) queries on the database
- File Imports/Exports – allow sharing of files between storage locations that are commonly accessible by the integrated applications, eg using FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
- Screen scraping – where the target application doesn’t provide any other form of interface, data may have to be collected from the target application’s operator console, eg via CLI (Command Line Interfaces)
Each of these mechanisms come in many variants, with varying degrees of integratability. The one thing that is in common across all of these interfaces is the need to understand the communication rules. This usually comes in the form of interface documentation that describes the rules and formats of input/output between applications.
Vendors often openly share their interface specifications to promote integration with their applications. Others charge enormous amounts, for the software (agents) or sometimes just for access to the interface documentation. So always look closely into how you’re going to get information across the divide between your suite of applications.