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The integration challenge: how to manage it

June 18, 2015

As the IT world evolves and businesses become digitized, an ongoing challenge is integrating applications within the enterprise and increasingly, across enterprises. Apart from existing on-premise software, businesses now have to add web, cloud and mobile applications, so the need to bring data and applications together is going to increase even more.

This trend has been highlighted by Gartner. In 2014 and in 2015, two top strategic technology trends were mobile and cloud computing and the need for these platforms to integrate with other systems. In 2015 Gartner added software-defined applications and infrastructure with the emphasis on agile provision and flexibility that is required for digital businesses to work.

As application platforms proliferate, traditional integration technologies are struggling to handle the influx. Organizations that continue using traditional approaches are finding it hard to manage integration, and the costs are rising ever higher.

Around 2010, a new group of software companies began to emerge that provided integration services, for on-premise as well as cloud applications, but at a lower cost than older integration solutions. This new breed of software ran in the cloud and enabled users to pay for the software as a service, as they consumed the service, rather than paying large upfront license fees.

Quick to spot a new trend, Gartner created a new category for this upcoming group of vendors – Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) software, defined as:

“… cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.”

iPaaS is a way to rethink enterprise architecture that enables IT managers to move beyond patching together disparate software and platforms with stop-gap APIs to embracing cloud-based hybrid integration that seamlessly connects a variety of applications, databases, and channels.

iPaaS solutions include pre-built connectors, business rules, maps and transformations that enable faster development of integration flows, using drag-and-drop tools. This allows automated connection of applications across different environments. Increasingly, tools are being added within iPaaS software to manage data quality and application programming interfaces.

Many enterprise systems, however, still require custom integration and programming in order to connect to different applications and cloud platforms. To handle this, the enterprise-focused iPaaS companies have connector kits for the development of connectors for custom and legacy applications.

Why should a business with an integration challenge consider an iPaaS?

1. Manage hybrid integration
iPaaS is a next-generation solution that moves from “one-to-one” integration to “many-to-one” functionality. With the emergence of Big Data and the Internet of Things, comprehensive, automatic integration is crucial for effectively managing and utilizing large volumes of data from a variety of sources.

2. Better operational efficiency
iPaaS enables the enterprise to operate better and more efficiently by making vital premise and cloud-based information more accessible, including underutilized but valuable data residing in legacy systems.

3. Rapid scalability
Today’s high-speed business environment requires rapid scalability to take advantage of changing data management and analysis needs. iPaaS enables IT organizations to quickly utilize new software and systems without worrying about integration and compatibility.

4. Improved security
The proliferation of cross-platform networks, channels, and devices can be a security nightmare. Hybrid integration using iPaaS provides the ability and flexibility to better manage sensitive data and choose between less or more secure storage, inside or outside firewalls, on-premise or in the cloud.

Virtually every organization – from SMBs to large enterprises – needs to link on-premise, often proprietary, systems with SaaS and other cloud-based operations. iPaaS can act as off-premise middleware that handles integration chores regardless of what’s involved – on-premise legacy systems, cross-platform databases and warehouses, and third party networks – regardless of who manages them or where they are.

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