System integration
In engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, system integration is the bringing together of the component subsystems into one system and ensuring that the subsystems function together as a system. In information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

, systems integration is the process of linking together different computing systems and software applications physically or functionally,
to act as a coordinated whole.

The system integrator
System integrator
A systems integrator is a person or company that specializes in bringing together component subsystems into a whole and ensuring that those subsystems function together, a practice known as System Integration...

 brings together discrete systems utilizing a variety of techniques such as computer networking, enterprise application integration
Enterprise application integration
Enterprise Application Integration is defined as the use of software and computer systems architectural principles to integrate a set of enterprise computer applications.- Overview :...

, business process management
Business process management
Business process management is a holistic management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. BPM attempts to...

 or manual programming.


A system is an aggregation of subsystems cooperating so that the system is able to deliver the over-arching functionality. System integration involves integrating existing (often disparate) subsystems. The subsystems will have interfaces. Integration involves joining the subsystems together by “gluing” their interfaces together. If the interfaces don’t directly interlock, the “glue” between them can provide the required mappings. System integration is about determining the required “glue”.

System integration is also about adding value to the system, capabilities that are possible because of interactions between subsystems.

In today’s connected world, the role of system integration engineers is becoming more and more important: more and more systems are designed to connect together, both within the system under construction and to systems that are already deployed.

Required skills

A system integration engineer needs a broad range of skills and is likely to be defined by a breadth of knowledge rather than a depth of knowledge. In an effort to better quantify the required skillset of a competent integrator by today's standards, Eric Wick developed a matrix template in 2010 to assess the capabilities of integrators interested in pursuing careers in the field.

These skills are likely to include software
Software engineering
Software Engineering is the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches; that is, the application of engineering to software...

 and hardware engineering, interface protocols, and general problem solving skills. It is likely that the problems to be solved have not been solved before except in the broadest sense. They are likely to include new and challenging problems with an input from a broad range of engineers where the system integration engineer "pulls it all together."

Methods of integration

Vertical Integration (as opposed to "horizontal") is the process of integrating subsystems according to their functionality by creating functional entities also referred to as silos
Information silo
An information silo is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems. A bank's management system, for example, is considered a silo if it cannot exchange information with other related systems within its own organization, or with the management systems...

. The benefit of this method is that the integration is performed quickly and involves only the necessary vendors, therefore, this method is cheaper in the short term. On the other hand, cost-of-ownership can be substantially higher than seen in other methods, since in case of new or enhanced functionality, the only possible way to implement (scale the system) would be by implementing another silo. Reusing subsystems to create another functionality is not possible.

Star Integration or also known as Spaghetti Integration is a process of integration of the systems where each system is interconnected to each of the remaining subsystems. When observed from the perspective of the subsystem which is being integrated, the connections are reminiscent of a star, but when the overall diagram of the system is presented, the connections look like spaghetti, hence the name of this method. The cost varies due to the interfaces which subsystems are exporting. In a case where the subsystems are exporting heterogeneous or proprietary interfaces, the integration cost can substantially rise. Time and costs needed to integrate the systems increase exponentially when adding additional subsystems. From the feature perspective, this method often seems preferable, due to the extreme flexibility of the reuse of functionality.

Horizontal Integration or Enterprise Service Bus
Enterprise service bus
An enterprise service bus is a software architecture model used for designing and implementing the interaction and communication between mutually interacting software applications in Service Oriented Architecture...

(ESB) is an integration method in which a specialized subsystem is dedicated to communication between other subsystems. This allows cutting the number of connections (interfaces) to only one per subsystem which will connect directly to the ESB. The ESB is capable of translating the interface into another interface. This allows cutting the costs of integration and provides extreme flexibility. With systems integrated using this method, it is possible to completely replace one subsystem with another subsystem which provides similar functionality but exports different interfaces, all this completely transparent for the rest of the subsystems. The only action required is to implement the new interface between the ESB and the new subsystem.

The horizontal scheme can be misleading, however, if it is thought that the cost of intermediate data transformation or the cost of shifting responsibility over business logic can be avoided.

A common data format is an integration method to avoid every adapter having to convert data to/from every other applications' formats, EAI systems usually stipulate an application-independent (or common) data format. The EAI system usually provides a data transformation service as well to help convert between application-specific and common formats. This is done in two steps: the adapter converts information from the application's format to the bus's common format. Then, semantic transformations are applied on this (converting zip codes to city names, splitting/merging objects from one application into objects in the other applications, and so on).


The process of systems integration is successfully done in construction engineering. Broad arrays of different engineering fields are simultaneously considered in the planning stage of a project. But all of these areas are adjacent to each other. For instance the structural analysis, construction physics, inherent material science, actual construction course and logistics are all members of a rather small group.
A difference would be the simultaneous consideration of areas distributed over the professions of the engineers involved and the architects, landscape architects, maintenance specialist, utility-provider and a scientist rendering the lifecycle balance of the project. Such an Multidisciplinary approach
Multidisciplinary approach
A multidisciplinary approach to problem solving involves drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations....

 cross all borders of different professions could be regarded as Multi-disciplinary Engineering
Multi-disciplinary Engineering
The term multi-disciplinary engineering describes an interdisciplinary process on a highly cross-professional level.It summons a much higher number of areas for integration than common interdisciplinary, or system integrated projects. In these areas the combination of two different fields of...

Such a level of integration has the potential to solve problems on an adequate level, achieving much more than financial gain.
The number of areas covered in a MDE process is much higher, too.

See also

  • Continuous integration
    Continuous integration
    In software engineering, continuous integration implements continuous processes of applying quality control — small pieces of effort, applied frequently...

  • Enterprise application integration
    Enterprise application integration
    Enterprise Application Integration is defined as the use of software and computer systems architectural principles to integrate a set of enterprise computer applications.- Overview :...

  • Integration platform
    Integration platform
    An Integration Platform is defined as a computer software which integrates different applications and services. It differentiates itself from the Enterprise application integration which has a focus on supply chain management...

  • Integration Competency Center
    Integration Competency Center
    The Integration Competency Center , sometimes referred to as an Integration Center of Expertise , is a shared service function within an organization, particularly large corporate enterprises as well as public sector institutions, for performing methodical Data Integration , System Integration or...

  • Lean Integration
    Lean Integration
    Lean Integration is a management system that emphasizes creating value for customers, continuous improvement, and eliminating waste as a sustainable data integration and system integration practice. Lean Integration has parallels with other lean disciplines such as Lean Manufacturing, Lean IT, and...

  • System of record
    System of record
    A system of record is an information storage system , which is the authoritative data source for a given data element or piece of information...

  • Systems integrator
  • Multidisciplinary approach
    Multidisciplinary approach
    A multidisciplinary approach to problem solving involves drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations....

External Links

CSIA (Control System Integrators Association)
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