Traditionally, an ERP has been nothing more than an arcane software application in which mechanisms of storage, processing and input and output have been combined in a single package, with customers largely concerned with how its inputs and output aligned with the inputs and outputs of the business processes it automates . However, lately ERP has been shifting from being a total of their software architecture strategy to becoming a component of a bigger strategy based around expression of technology as particular business services that people in the business can understand. This strategy brings forward the concept of constructing a new integration layer that is separate and distinct from any of the software applications in an organization’s portfolio, including the ERP.
This integration layer has a messaging infrastructure as its foundation, which translates, routes and monitor information from different system without the need of a connection between these systems. Hence, addition, removal of modification of a system is only a matter of making changes to a single link in this architecture, rather then tearing apart all the connections to different systems that it may need to communicate with. However, despite the fact that messaging architecture makes the linking of different systems very easy, it does not do anything to liberate business processes to make them independent, or remove any application redundancies or act as a force to create a useful architecture. This is because of the fact that messaging has always lacked a higher purpose, a strategy. Service objects serve this purpose and form another important part of the core of the integration layer. Though not a new concept, services work by extracting pieces of data as well as business logic from the databases and systems across the organization and group them together into structures that can be expressed in business terms. This service-oriented-architecture (SOA) also makes the enterprise application infrastructure irrelevant. In the SOA, technology is built according the services mentioned by the business and not by the processes present inside an enterprise application vendor’s software container. In this scenario, the packaged software is represented as a service, a component in a larger business process, which connects a mesh of functions and data inside ERP and old legacy systems. In this architecture, the vendor no longer matters. The only important thing is the linkage between the applications (Koch 2006).
As the popularity of the SOA concept has grown over the years, all major vendors have announced their strategies to rebuild their existing ERP applications as a set of services that are connected together through Web Services standards. Instead of closely coupling the different business processes that are expressed in the ERP, an SOA approach would split these processes into independent chunks that are easy to modify independent of other processes and link them with other systems by using an integration language that would be commonly adopted by all vendors. As a result, the strategies of integration by vendors have become more important the other features of the software and major vendors have started offering integration middleware along with their software suit in order to move toward adopting the SOA completely. For example SAP, the most dominant player in the ERP market, has mad startling change to its strategy. For a long time, SAP resisted getting into alliances with other software vendors and emphasized on building applications alone.
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