25 May 2004
An integration database is a database which acts as the data store for multiple applications, and thus integrates data across these applications (in contrast to an ApplicationDatabase).
An integration database needs a schema that takes all its client applications into account. The resulting schema is either more general, more complex or both - because it has to unify what should be separate BoundedContexts. The database usually is controlled by a separate organization to those that develop applications and database changes are more complex because they have to be negotiated between the database group and the various applications.
The benefit of this is that sharing data between applications does not require an extra layer of integration services on the applications. Any changes to data made in a single application are made available to all applications at the time of database commit - thus keeping the applications' data use better synchronized.
On the whole integration databases lead to serious problems becaue the database becomes a point of coupling between the applications that access it. This is usually a deep coupling that significantly increases the risk involved in changing those applications and making it harder to evolve them. As a result most software architects that I respect take the view that integration databases should be avoided.
Updated 2015-07-01: added link to Bounded Context and final paragraph