Integrating in the Cloud Part I: The Traditional Model

By Lisa Gecko

If you’re like a lot of organizations running network software, you’ve been in this business a long time and have pretty much seen it all: from mainframe to mid-range to client-server to Internet-based computing and everything in between. It’s difficult to not look at SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud computing as just another expensive technology upgrade. But as was the case with the emergence of the internet, there are some fundamental shifts occurring in cloud computing that would be disadvantageous to ignore. The emergence of cloud-based integration platforms is one of those shifts. In this series, part one will detail the disadvantages of the traditional model of integration. Part two will look at how an integrated cloud based network essentially solves the problems associated with the traditional integration model, and how it can significantly benefit your organization.

The view that integration is unwieldy is mostly a result of legacy platforms and delivery systems; could computing has dramatically simplified the process. The Integration industry is known for its complexity. But recently, the SaaS model has led to a revolutionary new application design and delivery approach – one that makes possible a far more efficient and effective model for delivering integration.

Integration by definition requires distribution. Applications typically run on multiple systems in multiple locations using multiple databases and files. Data are distributed. Infrastructure is distributed. Networks are distributed. Users are distributed. As a consequence, integration processes also need to be distributed.
In the traditional model of developing software, the approach was to build a standalone application (or suite) and then commercialize it by selling copies of that application (or licenses) to as many customers as possible. In today’s terms, this is referred to as a multi-instance, single tenant application – multiple copies of the same application running independently with no shared resources.

In the traditional model, the support costs increase dramatically as the number of copies and versions of the application increase. Systems providers spend more and more of their time and resources maintaining existing application code as opposed to delivering new features and functionality, as the expenses continue to climb. At the same time, a significant burden is placed on the end users who have to maintain their copy of the application with endless new releases, updates and patches. The maintenance challenges often keep organizations avoiding upgrading altogether. Enterprises are forced to spend the majority of their IT budget on maintaining current applications systems, with little left over for new innovation.

When the multi-instance, single tenant model is applied to the world of data and application integration it inherently creates a number of complexities, such as security and governance issues, that have plagued the industry for decades. This is mainly because the effort to integrate includes designing and building the integration process, deploying the integration, executing the integration, and then ongoing monitoring and management. While the integration process is being implemented at multiple points throughout the enterprise, all other functions have to be centralized. However, vendors of traditional integration products, tended to build all administrative and maintenance functionality into one product. Customers would then be required to purchase a copy of an integration product (or even multiple products) for every instance where an integration process needed to run within the enterprise. Typically, a large enterprise would be required to run 20+ copies or more of these integration products in order to meet their business requirements.

As you can see, the traditional model of integration leaves a lot to be desired. The good news is that cloud computing essentially solves the many problems associated with the traditional model. Stay tuned for Part II for a detailed look at the benefits of cloud-based integration and how it can significantly benefit your organization.