Click here to close now.


Microsoft Cloud Authors: Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Elizabeth White, Andreas Grabner, Jim Kaskade, Pat Romanski

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 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
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll share tips on how to speed up business initiatives, harness Big Data and remain one step ahead by apply...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context w...
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...