Cloud Integration 101

Monday, August 12th, 2013

What is cloud integration?

Cloud integration is the process of bringing data from on-premise systems and cloud systems together so that the data can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection. The term “cloud integration” is typically used in the context of enterprises joining various software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps together with an organization’s own onsite apps located behind firewalls. For example, an enterprise might use a CRM cloud system, such as Salesforce, in conjunction with its own on-premise database.


Why now?

The proliferation of SaaS apps used by both the private and public sector over the last five years has driven the need to bring everything together in a cohesive manner for data management – including pre-cloud server systems with cloud-based systems. As data rapidly increases in volume and variety, the cloud is up to the challenge of handling the demands of big data. However, enterprises aren’t necessarily going to ditch their on-premise servers any time soon – hence the need for integration.

What are the benefits?

  • Accessibility: Users can access data in real-time from any type of device wherever there is an Internet connection. They can also use the same username and password across multiple apps (single sign-on) that they use on a regular basis, such as email and calendar.
  • ROI: Cloud integration has a rapid return-on-investment that can be easily presented to an enterprise’s decision-makers.
  • Scalability:  Cloud integration gives your enterprise the opportunity for unlimited growth in terms of the potential number of applications and users.

What are the challenges?

  • Data governance: Certain types of data, (e.g. financial and medical) fall under compliance regulations, so it can be tricky to untangle what should stay within on-premise systems and what can go to the cloud. Be sure to familiarize yourself with data regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and PCI.
  • Vendor lock-in: Vendor lock-in occurs when the movement of data from one product/service to another is impeded due to the vendor’s insufficient data migration tools. To mitigate this, ask the vendor about its data migration tools and look for a vendor that complies with the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) standards  enacted by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).
  • Data control: The downside to not having to upgrade and maintain SaaS is that control and visibility of the data must be sacrificed to the vendor. Be sure to include monitoring capabilities as part of your cloud integration strategy in order to maintain optimal control over your data architecture.

How do I get started?

Open platforms are ideal for cloud integration when they empower an enterprise with the ability to migrate data as well as to integrate it. Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) works as a stand-alone platform that provides cloud integration services and can administer various different integration patterns, in addition to point-to-point. In fact, Gartner predicts that, “by 2016, at least 35% of all large and midsize organizations worldwide will be using one or more iPaaS offerings in some form.” Check out companies such as CloudWork, IFTTT, MuleSoft, CloudHub, and SnapLogic, which all offer iPaaS products.

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