Integrated refers to two or more components merging together into a single system. Integrated comes from the Latin word integer, meaning whole. While the term has a singular meaningâ€” components designed to function as one unitâ€”it has multiple applications in the IT field. It could describe hardware, software, or the combination of both.
Integrated hardware is when a hardware device is combined into another device. For example, several motherboards have an integrated network card, video card, or sound card. These devices can be enabled and disabled from the CMOS or by using a jumper or DIP switch on the motherboard.
Integrated hardware components can save space and reduce manufacturing costs, but it may also limit performance. Another example of integrated hardware is a laptop with integrated graphic chips that are built into the motherboard. And in some cases, the graphics processor is integrated directly into the CPU.
Integrated software is a collection of software that combines several applications in one program, typically providing at least word processing, spreadsheet, and database management functionality. It’s most commonly used in personal computers where the applications are grouped together in the form of a suite and can be accessed via a common launching pad. Popular examples of integrated software include Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Office.
Integrated software systems offer such advantages:
- Low cost compared to buying each application separately
- A consistent interface from one application to another
- Ability to share information between applications
- Ideal for personal or professional use
Similarly, integration in the IT field refers to the connection of data, applications, APIs, and devices across an organization. Integration not only connects, but also adds value through new functionalities provided by connecting different systems’ functions. An example would be Apache Kafka, an open source platform that allows users to integrate streams of data with applications.
Application integration is the merging and optimization of data and workflows between two disparate software applications. It allows two applications, each designed for its own specific purpose, to work together. This allows businesses to organize a variety of functions across their entire infrastructures. It reduces redundancy and data duplication. For example, a digital store using Shopify needs to integrate with an ERP application to ensure e-commerce data communicates with fulfillment processes.