EAI and ETL: two separate engines for integrating your data

Many differences exist between EAI and ETL. Although it can sometimes be confusing, EAI and ETL each play a distinct role in the urbanization of an Information System (IS).

Find out more in this article about their similarities and differences, which presents the opportunity to identify how to use them in your inter-application communication exchanges.

What is an EAI?

An Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) is a software solution that communicates the different applications of a company’s information system by linking applications within an organization together.

Thus, this type of platform orchestrates inter-application flows according to sophisticated routing rules: this is the workflow of your project.

An EAI is an application that organizes the flow of information between heterogeneous applications and makes them interoperable.

An EAI has three functions:

  • Connecting to the application bricks[EP1] ,
  • Data integration: converting and integrating information into a common language,
  • Transporting data streams: from the transmitting application to the receiving app.

To operate, the EAI has access to company-related reference data, a business rules engine, application connectors and an information transportation system.

There are, indeed, some similarities between EAI and ETL. But first, let’s find out what an ETL is.


An ETL (Extract Transform Load) is a type of exchange software that collects data from multiple sources, restructures it, and transfers it to a data warehouse.

In this age of Big Data, ELTs are adapting to new types and sources of business-related data to facilitate and support decision-making from a large amount of information.

The operation of an ETL can be broken down into three stages:

  • Data collection where all the data that has been collected/altered since the last run. The raw data may come from one or more sources;
  • Data transformation, to format data, including aggregating it;
  • Data input which involves inserting the data into the decision-making database or target databases.

In short, EAI and ETL are both considered as middleware. But how do they fit into your IT architecture?

EAI and ETL: two different middleware engines

Although they can be both pigeonholed under the generic term “middleware,” an EAI is not an ETL, and an ETL is not an EAI. Each meets different objectives connected with data integration issues.

An EAI is business oriented, it works according to functional rules, and links all the applications of your information system. Similarly, it knows how to manage two-way flows with moderate volumes of information.

An EAI makes it easier for applications to maintain interoperability by transferring only their most necessary data, almost in real time, to system users.

TIP: During data flow processing, pay attention to complex management rules and transaction size for network bandwidth.

For its part, an ETL works in batch form where consolidation rules are linked to data or metadata. It is BI-oriented (Business Intelligence) and functions at the level of decision analysis applications. As a result, the ETL manages one-way flows and can process Big Data.

In summary, an ETL allows complex transformations and aggregations of large volumes of data for a multidimensional database.

TIP: Pay attention to disk space requirements and network latency between extraction time and availability in the data warehouse. Therefore, focus on running operations at night.

How to choose between ETL and EAI

EAI is a choice based on target architecture

The implementation of an EAI forms, in part, a construction called an EAI (Enterprise Architecture Interface). In other words, it is application-oriented architecture. However, ETL is the tool of data-oriented, inter-software architecture.

EAI architectures are “Hub and spoke” (star topology), “Network centric” or SOA, for sharing the functionality of applications.

Often, flow mapping is not frozen and is malleable. This is the case for migration projects in which existing computer systems must coexist within a new system.

ETL for flow analysis and Big Data

Until now, decision-making tools have been primarily intended to manage internal corporate data as a decision-making aid.

Today, with variants such as the ELT, it is becoming possible to integrate external and strategic information to improve performance. One step closer to utilizing the power of Big Data for your company’s decision-making chain!

CIO names Business Intelligence solutions as a tech priority in terms of finding solutions for dealing with Big Data and piloting projects over the coming years (CIO TechPolls: tech priorities 2018).

EAI and global enterprise

The specialization of trades and the complexity of their needs often leads to a proliferation of specialized applications within the same company: an ERP application on its own, for example, rarely covers all the needs of a company.

The more business software applications there are in one company, the more complex a business’s integration and data sharing becomes. Moreover, these systems are crucial to the proper functioning of information systems.

The brilliance of an EAI is that it is used to communicate between applications that were not designed to interact with each other.

Therefore, with the implementation of an EAI project, the number of overall interfaces is limited, and the overall system (and the company’s staff) is facilitated to work better.

TIP: Consider organizing file formats by transaction type to reduce the effort of system switching when integrating future new applications.

Different features to consider for your business processes

As we can see above, ETL and EAI are two integration solutions with different functions. The first is decision-oriented, and thus a decision-making tool. The second is service-oriented and collaborative between applications. EAI is, in particular, the bias taken by DEX. Rightly this one is also called ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) where centralized software integrates backend systems to create an interface usable by new applications.

We can still find something in common: sharing a unique vision of your company’s data and business processes !

For more than 30 years, Tenor has been helping its clients set up and manage their data exchanges. Our computerized data exchange and paperless taxation complement our EAI software. To delve deeper into the subject, check out our definition of EAI, or this excellent article on vendor support. If you prefer, you can also contact us to discuss your project.

Choosing your EDI provider, a strategic opportunity

Improving the efficiency of your management system, optimizing your business processes, reducing costs … So many expected benefits await enterprises with the deployment of EDI. Benefits, that is, that depend on what solution they choose.

And which impacts the image portrayed to your business partners and to all your users. Thus, security and reliability must be at the heart of all future EDI solutions.

Overall, the installation and maintenance of an EDI platform requires a high level of expertise that should not be entrusted to novices.

Especially, since these kinds of systems are is often implemented at the start of a long-term commitment.

1. Analyze and understand your EDI needs

Cost alone is not reason enough to select your future provider.

You must carefully define your requirements for your current and future EDI system, and the added value it will bring your business.

To do so, it is important to ask yourself a number of questions:

  • What kind of implementation do you envision?
  • What services do you expect from the EDI platform?
  • Will you implement paperless taxation and invoices?
  • How many EDI streams do you need?
  • Does your core business require “real-time” and 24/7 response?
  • What types of dashboards and visibility will your users require?

Then, all that remains is to select EDI providers that meet your expectations point by point.

To make a first selection based on your business and the services it offers, GS1 France provides a list of EDI solution providers on its website.

2. Choose your EDI provider

Adequate solution and quality of service

At this stage, it is important to find the solution that is easily integrated with your computer system or ERP, and one that covers all of your needs.

Whether you opt for an outsourced solution in Software as a service (Saas) mode, a software solution, or a Web EDI, you will need to choose a multi-standard solution and multi-protocol communication to be able to communicate with all your current partners.

If your company operates in several countries, your selected EDI solution must be able to operate internationally and in accordance with the technical and legal constraints of the countries concerned, especially for electronic invoices.

You will also need to look at the strength and sustainability of the EDI supplier:

  • Are they familiar with your industry and do they have several references for this?
  • Are they certified?
  • Has the supplier proven themselves in the field?
  • Does working with them guarantee your legal obligations in the context of paperless invoices, especially at the level of archiving?
  • Are previous customers who use its solutions and services satisfied?

TIP: Make sure that the EDI provider will provide you with all the resources you need to build your EDI system as you expect it and on time.

Good technical skills

An EDI platform that works without error is a real joy and added value for your information systems.

But a dysfunctional EDI platform can seriously affect your productivity and your relationships with your business partners.

Hence the importance of choosing an EDI provider whose infrastructure and technical knowledge are serious and guaranteed to meet correct SLA standards.

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a contractual document committing the provider to ensure a certain level of service and the availability of its platforms. This article provides more information about SLA .

Reliable support or technical service

Once you’ve deployed your first EDI feeds, the support team will be your main point of contact.

Monitoring, error management, reliability of responses, correction of recurring errors, responsiveness … these are things to be aware of before you commit.

TIP: Check to see if support is available in your users’ languages and if their available time slots cover your needs.

Being ergonomic and accessible at all times, will allow your users to be able to autonomously view their documents.

EDI service Pricing

The volume of data exchanged often defines the price. There may also be costs associated with the use of a particular communication network (ENX, OFTP). Some providers may offer flat-rate subscriptions.

TIP: Compare the different offers and consider the future development of your EDI communications. This will give you the most advantageous pricing.

A long-term view of your EDI

Nothing is fixed in an EDI system. You will receive progressive requests from your partners. You’ll also want to bring someone in to optimize your streams.

As your business grows you’ll deploy new messages or connect to new partners.

Therefore, your EDI service provider must be able to respond to these requests for change. In addition, it must offer the latest technologies and complete interoperability at all times. This will help meet future demands.

In summary, setting up EDI promises a lot of benefits for your business. Nevertheless, the chosen solution offers a quality service in which the role of the EDI provider is crucial.

It’s time to make the right choice!

For more than 30 years, Tenor has been supporting companies in the industrial, automotive, and retail sectors in their EDI and EDI supplier rollouts. If you are interested in this topic, check out this article about vendor support or contact us to discuss the options for your EDI project.

Start your EDI project today, contact us: