While cloud evangelists won’t hesitate to point out the numerous advantages of cloud computing technologies, business leaders have identified cloud integration as one of the major obstacles to successful SaaS adoption, deployment, and implementation. Many enterprises will agree that integrating SaaS and on-premise applications remains a top concern, second to privacy and data security. In fact, enterprises will cite integration as the main reason for transitioning from a cloud based solution to an on-premise alternative.
Although a SaaS application may offer lower costs and greater flexibility, it also presents new challenges to an enterprise. And with the purchase of a new SaaS application, segregation of enterprise data into cloud silos is made possible, a problem obviously exacerbated by the shocking number of new vendors entering the SaaS market and the ease with which one can obtain such services.
The adoption of PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), other cloud computing and the ever-growing popularity of mobile apps, as well as the advent of social media platforms can only mean that processes and additional data are also migrating out of the firewall into the cloud. These recent developments require enterprise leaders to think of how their applications can be able to communicate with each other and come up with strategies that will integrate within the cloud, and even between the enterprise and the cloud.
Integration raises several concerns.
Cloud Integration Challenges and Solutions
1. Security: this is a key concern for cloud adoption and cloud users find it even more complicated when the challenges of integration as added. Enterprises and other cloud users remain concerned about their data and processes and whether they will be secure in the cloud.
To provide a solution to this, the integration must be able to authenticate and authorize access to enterprises’ resources, both on-premise and in the cloud. It should also be able to store encrypted data, especially in a multi-tenant environment, in accordance with various regulations such as SSAE 16. The growing need for SaaS and mobile applications, as well as social media services that can connect the enterprise to the cloud and access enterprise data securely without compromising the firewall, demands security measures that will make cloud users have confidence in SaaS integration.
2. Flexibility and Scalability: while point-to-point integration provides primary SaaS and SaaS connectivity, they are not flexible or sophisticated enough to tackle more complex scenarios. A great integration solution must support multiple integration flows that move in both directions, i.e. across the enterprise and the cloud. In addition, the solution must also be able to scale up with the increasing endpoints.
3. Management – Less visibility and Control by Users: For enterprise users, cloud based applications can offer great convenience and ease of use whilst transferring the burden of upgrades and maintenance to the SaaS provider. But the tradeoff is that users will have much less visibility and/ or control over their own SaaS applications, especially with the issue of integration. Integration solutions, however, need to include rich monitoring capabilities to offer the visibility and/or control over key information flows and performance attributes that are currently not in SaaS applications.
4. Closed Platforms: a number of SaaS vendors have began offering out-of-the-box connectors in an attempt to address the cloud integration challenges of cloud strategy deployment. Unfortunately, even system admins who have handled integration challenges in the pre-cloud era know that using integration solutions from an app vendor often limits the enterprise’s ability to freely select and manage the solutions that best suit their needs. The solution to this challenge is to offer integration solutions with open platforms that enable enterprises to easily move on/ off whilst seamlessly integrating their applications and data.
Despite the daunting challenges of integration, the ever-increasing number of new solutions is intriguing. Integration PaaS, officially known as iPaaS, is a model used in provisioning integration services, but only as a standalone platform. Apart from point to point, iPaaS solutions are capable of carrying out various integration patterns and offer a secure channel used to access the enterprise.
As a cloud based solution, iPaaS also shares scalability and flexibility of other cloud-based services. Most importantly, it serves as a center of interaction for a variety of services and applications across the cloud and enterprise. While iPaaS is still at infancy, it promises to meet and even exceed the integration challenge in/ with the cloud.
Integration is crucial in delivering cloud-based solutions to a business. Designing a cloud strategy can be a very time consuming and challenging process, but your planning process should consider that the on-premise resources and infrastructure that your company has, and this has to be coordinated with the apps scheduled to be moved to the cloud.
Other areas that pose integration challenges include backup and storage. But the information on this subject is rather scarce, as a good number of cloud implementations has had an experimental character. In addition, people have solved issues as they arise and they are yet to institute best practices or a set of standards that govern the subject.
A central issue that often arises when data is moved to the cloud is that, at some point, you’ll need to sync data with your existing traditional on-premise system. You may not realize this until you attempt to drive your business process between on-premise resources and cloud computing. Therefore, the cloud integration issue will arise at this point. You must first consider the basics of integration, as well as the ability to seamlessly connect with source and target systems, for instance, Salesforcce.com and SAP. You must also consider how data can be extracted from the source system whilst mediating the semantics and even technical differences to be able to publish the data to your source.
While cloud-to-enterprise integration seems to be the most common pattern, cloud-to-cloud integration is also coming up, including complex integration paths capable of spanning dozens of on-premise/ cloud-based systems. And as cloud computing continues to be more pervasive, the patterns of integration will become even more complex.
With some little planning and top-notch technology, integration issues can quickly be addressed, clearing the path to cloud computing. You must also determine how you’re going to coordinate the data and upgrades by configuring the interfaces so that these systems can communicate. To avoid the inconveniences that come with unpreparedness, the solution is to deal with possible cloud integration issues through planning the migration, as well as the implementation.