13 Sep 2016
How to integrate applications in the modern world
In a world where speed and agility are important, it seems strange that developers used to spend months setting up infrastructures and integrating different applications with each other. In those ‘old’ days, application integration was almost a black art, applications had their own methods and protocols for external communication, and application upgrades meant a major re-integration project. But then that was a world where things changed relatively slowly, there was greater certainty, and there weren’t so many options. As that has changed under the conditions of the ‘new normal’, how should developers be looking at application integration?
Old-style integration projects
How did integration projects operate in the past?
Traditional integration projects used an ESB (enterprise service bus), which had to be installed and maintained as an on-premise application. Paying for the software meant the traditional licensing model of a high upfront cost with annual renewal fee. Because of the initial cost and infrastructure required, these type of integration projects needed senior management approval just to start the project.
Design and implementation
The waterfall model was the only methodology for traditional integration projects. They required a long period for top-down design, and once development was underway, scope changes were discouraged as that could significantly delay the final release. Change requests could therefore take a long time to get through the review and approval process.
Apart from having infrastructure to install, there was the additional time and costs to set up the deployment environments – development, test, production.
Working on integration projects required a depth of technical skill, and a good understanding of the technology – like XML and SOAP. Working on integrations therefore required a high level of technical competence.
Providing data access to partners was also a complex process. The partners either needed their own technical skills, or had to participate in a business exchange, which was costly and inflexible. Complex and costly architectures like EDI and ETL made data exchange only practical for large businesses.
Modern integration projects
A comment from Gartner highlights the new position for integration.
most CIOs have yet to recognize that their traditional, established integration strategies cannot cope with digitalization’s fast technology innovation and accelerated pace of business – Massimo Pezzini, Gartner
For modern business requirements, more streamlined technologies are needed to integrate the systems of the future – systems that will comprise numerous on-premise, cloud and mobile application, as well as lightweight services. This will require new methodologies that encourage more agile development approaches and allow for more rapid iterations during development.
The advantage of modern integration applications is that there is no infrastructure to install because the software is cloud-based. The use of SaaS (software-as-a-service) licensing also means no upfront licensing cost. Usage-based pricing is the new approach, which allows integration projects to start small, at a much lower cost, with cost increases matched to the growth of the system. Consequently, it is easier now to start an integration project.
Modern design and implementation
In today’s world, integration development must be able to support a business environment which requires fast response times. Cloud-based integration platforms enable faster iterations in the development process, allowing for scope changes to be accommodated quicker and greater flexibility throughout the application lifecycle.
Modern integration platforms provide a more flexible approach to application deployment, allowing movement between development, testing and production to be quick.
New application programming
The technology of integration has changed. Although XML is still widely used, the adoption of REST and JSON, and use of APIs to make integration more open, are increasing. Whilst some aspects of application integration still require technical skills to build integrations, a movement to encourage citizen integrators – users with some technical understanding – is empowering business users to get more involved in performing integration tasks.
New data interchange
The concept of the ‘API Economy‘ is increasing the understanding and appreciation of APIs as an easier interface to share data between business partners. With the adoption of APIs, organizations of any size can be involved in a partner ecosystem that uses data interchange to make business more efficient.
Modern application integration technology
The growth of a new integration technology – integration platform-as-a-service, or iPaaS – is a cloud-based solution that enables users to connect applications regardless of whether they’re on-premise or in the cloud without having to add layers to their infrastructure. iPaaS enables IT managers to move beyond patching together disparate software, and provides cloud-based integration that seamlessly connects a variety of applications, databases, and channels.
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 regardless of what’s involved and who manages them or where they are.
What makes iPaaS even more attractive is the way it can free up IT resources, employees, and budgets for more mission-critical tasks instead of spending time and money integrating and maintaining on-premise and cloud-based systems to ensure they can work together.
For developers, using an iPaaS relieves them from concerns about scalability as the platform will dynamically scale, and makes building, maintaining and managing integrations much easier than either ESB or hand-coding.
Flowgear for developers
As an iPaaS, Flowgear has benefits for developers, including:
- a graphic design canvas which shows data and execution flows in one visual development environment,
- DropPoint technology which simplifies the integration of on-premise applications into the cloud,
- revision history allowing developers to review and use earlier versions of an integration workflow.
The graphical display of integration workflows also makes it easier for business users to understand the integration processes.
iPaaS – the next-generation integration solution
The impact of technology innovation, accelerated pace of business, and growth of multiple application platforms – on-premise, cloud, and mobile – have surpassed traditional integration’s ability to handle it. iPaaS is a next-generation solution that moves from “one-to-one” integration to “many-to-one” functionality.
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.
With the ability to scale rapidly, iPaaS can 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.
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.
Organizations that need to wring every benefit out of their IT resources should be considering integration-platform-as-a-service as a must-have IT tool for the enterprise and beyond.
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