Integrating in the Cloud Part II: Cloud-based Integration

By Lisa Gecko

Cloud-based integration of applications solves many of the headaches associated with the traditional model of integrating software and systems. As we continue in part two, we will look at the many advantages of the SaaS (Software as a Service) model and cloud based integration over the traditional model, and how it can significantly benefit your organization.

The built-in demands of the traditional model of integration included the necessary runtime to distribute applications across the enterprise, and the functionality to build, deploy and manage the integration processes and replicate them across the enterprise. Having multiple instances of what would ideally be centralized administrative and management functions created a maintenance nightmare and weakened governance and controls. Nearly every major integration challenge – including version control, data visibility, audits, policy enforcement and governance are the result of this legacy style of software development and deployment.

The SaaS model has led to a fundamentally different way of thinking about application design and delivery. In the SaaS model, considerable focus is placed on designing an application where only one copy is necessary for any number of customers to use (and customize for their unique needs). In cloud-based terms, this is referred to as single-instance, multi-tenant model: one shared application with shared resources for multiple customers. Multi-tenancy makes possible all the numerous advantages of SaaS such as rapid deployment times, faster innovation cycles and ultra-low cost structure.

It also dramatically reduces the maintenance and development resource requirements because only one copy of the application needs to be maintained (customizations of each tenant are maintained as extensions and automatically re-applied when the application is updated). Now when a change is made to the application and deployed – all customers are updated in unison with little to no effort required by customer staff. Since there is only one single code base across all customers to be maintained, it frees up significant developer time to focus on new features and functions. The resulting productivity boost has given rise to what some have called the “continuous innovation cycle” of SaaS.

When SaaS concepts are applied to the domain of data and application integration, an entirely new and vastly more efficient delivery model is made possible – even if you are not currently using SaaS applications. Cloud-based integration platforms allow you to design, build, monitor, and manage integrations centrally (from the cloud) yet deploy just the runtime to where the integration needs to occur – either in the cloud or on premise.

Separating the runtime while unifying the administrative and management functions eliminates unneeded complexity and dramatically increases the quality of collaboration, component re-use, data visibility and control, policy standardization and enforcement, configuration management, monitoring, auditing/validation, and reporting.

And because cloud integration platforms are built with SaaS technology and concepts, they deliver the same benefits as SaaS applications themselves including significantly reduced cost structure, no integration products to install and maintain, automatic upgrades – no “rev lock” issues, usage based pricing in which you can start small and expand over time, and global connectivity and access.

Using a cloud-based integration platform to address your current on-site integration requirements has the added benefit of positioning the enterprise to support the adoption of cloud and SaaS-based applications in the future. SaaS applications have introduced a new set of integration features which legacy integration products were not built to support: features such as enabling on-site work flows without the need for customized firewall configurations (and thus reducing security vulnerabilities) and handling the dynamic resource requirements of complex APIs. With a cloud integration platform, applications and data sources outside your firewalls can easily be added to your portfolio using the same distributed runtime, centralized management framework.

SaaS technology is changing the way applications are designed, developed and delivered. When these concepts are applied to the world of application and data integration, an entirely new and vastly more efficient and effective model for delivering integration is made possible – one that greatly simplifies legacy challenges such as configuration management and governance. Cloud computing puts an end to the complex integration challenges of the past. Cloud-based integration platforms provide scalable interfaces that greatly enhance the power and productivity of the enterprise.