On the technical front, cloud integration remains a top concern for IT organizations as highlighted by IDG’s recent cloud computing survey . Having bought into the premise of cloud computing, enterprises start deploying cloud services, hastily and with no clear strategy, to later find themselves faced with a hodgepodge of fragmented cloud and information silos – ultimately hurting business operations.
A well thought out integration strategy is a must if IT organizations want to avoid ending up with a mélange of cloud silos connected through a “spaghetti” architecture that is inflexible, difficult to manage, and which can lead to chronic business disruptions. An effective integration strategy for the multi-cloud world needs to address all integration scenarios and models– be it cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-on-premise, application integration, or data integration. Quick point-to-point integrations are not viable long-term solutions and should be avoided — they often require custom interfaces, are fraught with problems and can be difficult and costly to manage and scale. Instead, IT organizations should build one cohesive integration platform that is service-oriented, supports standard-based web services, and addresses all cloud integration scenarios. Such a platform has to provide full service orchestration, intermediation, and tools for monitoring and managing integration flows – in addition to secure means of accessing and transporting data between the enterprise and the cloud.
When it comes to how to implement an integration platform, IT organizations have multiple options to choose from, including on-premise software-based solutions, on-premise appliance-based solutions, and cloud-based solutions (iPaaS):
On-premise software-based solutions: This is the traditional integration server software from providers such as IBM, Oracle, and Informatica. Although originally intended for enterprise systems integration, most of these solutions have been augmented to address cloud integration scenarios –whether cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-on-premise. These solutions do cost more but they tend to be more advanced, more stable, and provide richer feature sets.
On-premise appliance-based solutions: These are usually point-to-point integration-in-a box solutions; they are preconfigured and optimized for a specific integration use case, typically cloud talking to enterprise and vice-versa (e.g. IBM Cast Iron Systems).
Cloud-based integration solutions: Aka integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) from the likes of Boomi, SnapLogic, and CloudWork. iPaaS is a lower cost alternative to on-premise solutions; iPaaS provides a suite of integration services which enable the implementation and management of integration flows between on-premise and cloud-based services, applications, and data. Some of the key features of iPaaS solutions include:
- Pre-built integration and connectivity to cloud providers
- Wide selection of cloud providers and platforms
- No software development or technical skills needed to use the service
All those solutions have their merits as valid integration approaches and IT organizations need to consider their unique requirements and situation in deciding which one(s) to choose. Most importantly IT organizations should:
- Refine and document integration requirements by analyzing the data and application flows along with their sources — both On-Premise and in the Cloud.
- Consider internal resources, integration skillsets, and cost constraints as well as speed of development, testing, and deployment requirements when evaluating different approaches
- Ensure that the selected integration solution is able to grow with your business — the solution should have the ability to efficiently and effectively scale as data volumes increase and additional applications are deployed.
- After selecting and deploying the most appropriate integration solution (On-Premise, iPaaS, or Hybrid), make sure you have proper resource and support structures in place for continued effective management and monitoring.
Finally, although enterprises have no choice but to embrace a multi-cloud world (see part 1) – along with its challenges and complexities, they do have a choice when it comes to whom they want to delegate that responsibility to – either the internal IT department or an external cloud broker. Ultimately, the final decision should reflect the long term vision for IT’s role within the enterprise – and consequently, where the organization wants to commit its finite IT resources and budget: low-value technology integration and operations or high-value business enablement and innovation – hard to do both in a do-more-with-less world.
What has been your multi-cloud experience? Have you had success with any particular integration approach (On-premise, iPaaS, Hybrid)? Did I miss any important points and/or best practices? Let us know if you’d like to meet to discuss further with a Cloud Readiness Assessment.