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September 28, 2010

What Is The Difference Between ETL and EAI?

Filed under: EAI, ETL — Katherine Vasilega @ 3:48 pm

There has been some talk lately about the merge between EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) and ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tools. I’ve decided to research in what way these tools differ and what they have in common.

Both tools deal with transformation and meta-data, feature connectors and service oriented architecture. They provide new capabilities for solving business intelligence and reporting issues and are an essential part of Enterprise Information Management (EIM). ETL is used for data integration and EAI is used for application integration.

Entities vs Processes

An ETL tool takes entities from one or more data sources and puts them into a target. These entities can be invoices, contacts, budgets, etc. It’s not the order of things that is important to a data model, but the relations existing between the entities. The ETL tool coordinates multiple entities and their relationships as data objects.

An EAI tool coordinates multiple entities and their relationships within a given process. EAI deals with transactions within the process, not with entities. In this case, the order in which things happen is vital, and the relationship within entities is less important, than the relationship within transactions.

In other words, EAI is generally process-oriented, while ETL is generally entity-oriented.

Convergence vs Divergence

ETL is about moving and transforming large amounts of data from many sources into one place. This process can be referred to as convergence. EAI, in its turn, is often used to move small amounts of data, spreading these transactions across various systems, which is known as divergence.

Business Cases

ETL is utilized for data migration and data integration to allow better decision making. EAI is utilized for process optimization and workflows and to make sure that data is entered only once and is properly used by systems and applications. The business case for ETL use is business intelligence, decision making, while EAI is used for IT, e-business, and better workflow.

From what I’ve learned, ETL and EAI tools are unlikely to merge completely at present. Though they are both important for Enterprise Information Management market, each tool is used for different purposes, and sometimes you have to combine them. Each concept is likely to remain and have its own users.

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