Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Jnan Dash, Andreas Grabner, Lori MacVittie, Jim Kaskade

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Creating Harmony When Cloud and On-Premise Worlds Collide

Integrating data across diverse SaaS applications with existing on-premise solutions has proved exceptionally challenging

In recent years, IT departments have been confronted with the convergence of several highly disruptive trends that have fundamentally altered the enterprise IT landscape, particularly when it comes to how data and applications are managed. Mobility and the rise of BYOD (bring your own device), as well as the growth of social media and the electronic information it generates, have each proved transformative. But perhaps no shift has been more seismic than the adoption of cloud and SaaS-based applications led by CIOs who see the value proposition associated with outsourcing many complex IT operations.

However, integrating data across diverse SaaS applications with existing on-premise solutions has proven exceptionally challenging. To streamline this integration without slowing adoption, IT stakeholders are turning to cloud-based integration solutions that can curtail complexity and IT oversight while enabling organizations to better leverage their information capital to drive business objectives. Indeed, according to a recent report by analyst firm MarketsandMarkets, the global Cloud Brokerage Services (CSB) market is on track to grow from $1.57 billion in 2013 to $10.5 billion by 2018, a compound annual growth rate of more than 45% over the five year period.

In this article, we will provide advice to IT leaders for creating sustainable environments using hybrid integration between SaaS technologies and existing on-premise applications. We will also explore the top considerations for building out a successful cloud integration strategy that offers the scalability and flexibility to withstand fluctuations in enterprise data management needs.

Start by Asking the Right Questions
Over the past few years, "Cloud" has transformed from the buzzword of the moment - all the rage but lacking concrete definition - to an efficient, widely recognized enabler of scalable IT operations. Despite the increasing ubiquity and viability of the cloud delivery model, it's important to remember that cloud is not "IT in a box." No one cloud service provider can meet all the complex IT needs of a single organization. By and large, enterprises evaluate and onboard an array of purpose-built solutions from diverse cloud providers. As a result, the need to successfully integrate them not only with each other, but also with traditional on-premise application-to-application (A2A) and business-to-business (B2B) systems is critical. The multitude of complex integrations - A2A, B2B, and on-premise applications to SaaS/cloud applications, and cloud-to-cloud (C2C) - requires a clear-cut integration strategy.

A critical first step in developing an integration strategy is to ask and answer a few key questions, the first of which is "what problem is the integration solving?" While achieving streamlined integration between cloud-based systems like Magento, NetSuite, SAP, Ariba, and salesforce.com is one aspect of a full-fledged strategy, it's important to remember the challenge extends beyond cloud-to-cloud integration. In reality, what many people today refer to as "cloud integration" is actually hybrid integration - integration not only between cloud systems, but between cloud and on-premise applications. Determining the specific integration goal - whether it is strictly cloud-to-cloud, or a larger hybrid model - ensures the strategy scales to both immediate and long-term integration needs.

Once you consider what problem the integration will solve, it's important to consider how integration will solve the problem. As the number of systems to be integrated grows, the number of potential interface points expands exponentially, and traditional, manually driven point-to-point integration can quickly become overwhelming. Each time an individual application is altered, or a trading partner changes its specification interface, IT must review all external connections for potential impact. An upgrade cycle for a large ERP system may spawn dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of integration projects across several departments and external trading partners.

Continuing to rely on this point-to-point integration model will become untenable as cloud adds another layer of complexity to the integration landscape. In order to avert chaos, enterprises are actively leveraging integration to create an interconnected web that holistically addresses data management and integration challenges across all of these disparate systems and applications. If an integration strategy is designed with a broader goal in mind, it is much more likely that the same strategy can be leveraged not only to solve immediate integration challenges, but future demands as well.

Identifying where integration is needed and how it can benefit an organization is an important first step. But once the decision has been made to move forward, there are a few key considerations that CIOs must take into account to successfully build out a strategy with staying power.

Reading the Signs: Spotting and Addressing Complexity
Anticipating the areas in which integration complexity is most likely to arise is crucial to the development of a flexible, cost-effective integration strategy. The following are two of the usual suspects of which CIOs should be aware:

  1. SaaS APIs: Many cloud providers promise to deliver a simple-to-use web API, but this is rarely the reality. Specifications for many SaaS APIs can run into the dozens, if not hundreds, of pages long, and can be a major headache for internal teams unfamiliar with the nuances of integration. Moreover, APIs often evolve over time as SaaS applications evolve, generating a source of ongoing complexity.
  2. Data Translation: The potential for complexity, however, does not end once the APIs are successfully integrated. Translating data between different SaaS applications, as well as between SaaS and on-premise systems, can be challenging, and this translation should be factored into the complexity calculus. Data that is not properly translated will be rendered useless, and backtracking to fix the glitch can add time and expense to business-critical projects. As a general rule, a bug that costs one dollar to fix during development will cost 10 dollars to fix during quality assurance, and 100 dollars fix once in production. This backtracking approach can prove particularly brittle when new systems are added to the ecosystem.

A Long-Term Vision: Thinking Beyond the First Integration Project
Integration with cloud is often a daunting prospect, particularly for businesses just beginning to onboard cloud applications as part of their IT strategy. The immensity of a single cloud integration can produce tunnel vision for IT teams, who get so bogged down in an initial project that they fail to consider the long-term implications of the integration and how it will ultimately fit into the overarching IT architecture - a problem already amply demonstrated with the pitfalls of the point-to-point approach. However, the inevitable complexity of integrating multiple applications over time should be sufficient incentive to give any CIO pause before creating a strategy tailor-made for a single integration project.

Even though it will likely require greater upfront investment and effort, organizations must settle on a cohesive sourcing strategy for integration that meets their individual needs. There are three fundamental options for this strategy: a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach based solely on existing knowledge of on-premise software; a DIY approach using a customer-driven integration Platform-as-as-Service (iPaaS); or outsourcing integration entirely to a third-party integration brokerage provider. When determining which of these strategies to adopt, it is important to consider the following:

  1. First, consider the deployment timeline. As departments across the enterprise demand rapid access to new and greater functionality offered by diversifying SaaS applications, IT departments are under mounting pressure to test, procure and deploy these solutions. This is where a CSB can help speed things up based on their experience working with various customers, implementation scenarios and technologies. Even as deployment windows tighten, however, many businesses are only just beginning to build out core competency around integration. For those with the strictest timelines, the option to build out an internal integration function may have already passed, and it may become necessary to bring in a third-party integration provider. While some may initially view these external integration providers as a Band-Aid solution, working with a specialized integration broker can often be the best long-term solution, especially when it comes to cloud integration where existing IT teams may have less familiarity.
  2. Second, consider the cost for integration in the long term. As the complexity of cloud integration projects continues to increase, building out an internal team will require a capital investment in expert personnel and software. Although it requires greater initial investment, this relatively fixed capital expenditure may be a better use of resources for some organizations. For others, such a large capital expenditure may not be feasible or efficient. Outsourcing projects to an integration broker shifts the cost of integration as an operating expense, reducing or eliminating the up-front cost, and providing a more scalable, recurring cost-structure.
  3. Once these factors have been weighed, the next decision is: in-house or external? Although SaaS applications for both back-office systems and B2B processes can offer tremendous efficiencies, the coordination and integration required on the back end is no simple matter. While building out in-house integration capabilities is important for some organizations due to commercial or other business considerations, companies that choose this route must recognize it early and take a proactive approach to cultivating the expert staff and resources that will be required to effectively manage and complete integration projects. For those businesses that don't have compelling reasons to keep the integration function in-house, outsourcing may prove more efficient. Cloud Services Brokers (CSBs) have existing integration infrastructure that can be leveraged for rapid deployment, and can increase capacity on demand, offering scalability when and where it's needed most. CSBs also deliver experience and collective intelligence around integration that can offer efficiencies beyond what can be accomplished with internal resources alone.

The key criteria and requirements around data management continue to expand, and cloud integration is at the nexus of this expansion. By planning and executing a comprehensive integration strategy that can efficiently and consistently scale to the evolving integration requirements of the business - including traditional on-premise, back-office systems and cloud-based applications - IT can help ensure the long-term scalability and business success. Whether the decision is to bring integration capabilities in-house, outsource integration needs, or use some combination of both, the time to start developing a plan is now.

More Stories By Rob Fox

Rob Fox is Vice President of Application Development for Liaison Technologies, and the architect for several of Liaison’s data integration solutions. Liaison Technologies is a global provider of cloud-based integration and data management services and solutions. He was an original contributor to the ebXML 1.0 specification, is the former chair of marketing and business development for ASC ANSI X12, and a co-founder and co-chair of the Connectivity Caucus. Connect with Rob on Twitter: @robert_fox1

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a leading digital experience intelligence company, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint Systems is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into your customer-critical services to help you consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed for digital business, C...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions with...
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, discussed the best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT depl...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet and...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.