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EAI stands for Enterprise Application Integration. This is a process that brings together enterprise computer applications under a common programming umbrella to increase functionality and performance.
At its most basic, EAI shares data between applications, and it can have several purposes. It can link databases, sharing data and providing a backup database in case problems arise. EAI can also provide data warehousing, funneling data from several databases into one for optimal use. Businesses also use it to complete a single business transaction across multiple systems.
The most innovative use of EAI is to create a common virtual system. In other words, the process can meld a series of applications and/or databases into one cohesive operating machine. This is without a doubt a more powerful option than one server operating on its own.
There are several reasons why companies would want to do this. Among the reasons are to take advantage of new technology, such as Internet and intranet functions. Related to these are e-commerce and electronic communication, such as email and videoconferencing. The vast majority of EAI users are large businesses that have large data sharing requirements.
One well-known use of EAI is by credit card companies and watchdog entities whose goal it is to catch credit card thieves. EAI allows these businesses to efficiently track millions of bits of data and to mine that data for a specific purpose. Another popular use is by financial institutions that want to help their customers complete foreign currency transactions online.
To help regulate and sponsor the use of EAI, members of companies around the world have formed the EAI Industry Consortium (EAIIC). The EAIIC is dedicated to getting the most out of the process while striving to guarantee that industry best practices are maintained. EAI begin in earnest in the 1990s, as businesses discovered the need for more cohesive software solutions to their data sharing and integration problems. It has gained steadily in popularity and looks to be here to stay as a solution to the problem of merging complex systems toward a single goal.