Introduction

It is impossible not to notice the fact that integration environments are becoming more complicated. Demands from customers and users, plus new and previously unheard-of technological advancements, have led to scenario in which integration directors are overwhelmed with pressure. With legacy and on-premises integration platforms fast becoming more of a hindrance than a help, the cloud presents an ever-more attractive alternative for integration directors.

Cloud Adoption Strategy

When developing a cloud integration strategy, integration directors need to be aware of their own personal limitations. In general, they can’t be everywhere or do anything. They are eventually going to need to delegate mission-critical responsibilities to some of their users – who may not be formally trained. In addition, they should account for the fact that even veteran integrators are unlikely to be familiar with new technologies that are emerging at a rapid pace.

Therefore, integrators should pursue a cloud adoption strategy that accounts for the following:

Self-checkout meets user demands – this helps take the pressure off overwhelmed integration directors. Instead of going directly to an integration specialist for aid, cloud platforms offer user-friendly tools where non-specialist workers – such as Line-of-Business users, business unit leaders, and users who are experienced with integration but not formally trained – can simply do it themselves.

Cloud natively integrates with new technologies – business needs such as business to business and application to application communication have always been around, but integration managers may now need to consider mobile applications and Internet of Things devices.

Flexible deployment strategies – moving to the cloud is by no means a fast or simple affair. It’s likely that companies will have several legacy applications that can’t be moved to a integration environment without months or even years’ worth of planning. In the interim, however, the cloud model can support a hybrid strategy that lets legacy applications remain on-premise for as long as it takes.

Setting down these principles is by no means the same as putting them into practice. Simply saying that users should be able to self-checkout certain features of the integration platform doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be able to do it in an easy, secure, and effective manner. What are the best ways to put these features into practice in a cloud integration platform?

Planning a Cloud Integration Platform

First, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a cloud integration platform. Every company has a different starting point in terms of its environment, its needs, and its technological maturity. This section is therefore going to consist of some more general advice.

There are two big dangers to consider. For one thing, it’s easy to purchase more cloud horsepower than a company needs. Up to 35% of all money spent on cloud technology is wasted – it goes to purchasing storage and compute volumes that are never used, or applications that are never needed. By the same token, it’s also possible to under-resource a new cloud integration platform, or to attempt to repurpose legacy applications for uses that they were never intended for.

Here are a few ways for companies to implement the main features from the strategy above in a sensible, scalable, and controllable manner.

  • Streamline Self-Checkout with Dedicated Roles
    Experienced integration directors should be able to control and customize a broader piece of the integration platform when compared to a self-taught business leader. Every individual authorized to control the integration platform should be assigned different levels of access depending on their abilities.
  • Governance Policies Control Access to the Integration Platform
    When companies begin to tie vendors, partners, mobile applications, and IoT devices into their integration platform, they run the risk of losing control. Directors need both broad-ranging and granular control over the services that are tied into their platform. This means adding the ability to control, manage, and audit API policies, track their behavior, and analyze their performance.
  • Use Strategic Plans to Achieve Tactical Aims
    A new integration platform is not going to need to achieve every bullet point at once. In conversations with business unit leaders, integration directors can ensure that their strategic priorities align with tactical objectives. For example, the strategic goal of improving one’s business agility might translate to a tactical objective of investing in an API management platform.

Cloud-Based Architecture

As mentioned, most companies are not going to be able to create a purely cloud-based integration environment. While many of their applications will be virtualized, placed in the cloud, and distributed in data centers around the world, many legacy applications will resist this and must be kept on-premises. As a result, companies will have to work with a hybrid cloud integration platform by default. What does the resulting architecture look like?

There are four primary considerations when it comes to reference architecture in a cloud integration platform.

The first is connectivity. In this case, administrators are going to have to connect users to interfaces in the cloud while providing low-level connectivity from the cloud platform to systems of record.

The second concern is deployment. A single integration platform may contain bare-metal servers, a private cloud, and one or more public clouds. Administrators will need to select for an architecture that can run just as well in any of these environments, which means investigating options such as virtual machines, containerization, and microservices. Crucially, these components must be able to communicate with each other from wherever they’re deployed.

Roles are the third consideration – which have admittedly been discussed here in great detail already. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that these roles must emphasize collaboration. Administrators must be able to build on work created in business units and vice versa, without replicating efforts.

Finally, administrators must take note of changing architectural styles. Applications have steadily become less and less monolithic, adopting more of a loosely-coupled architecture. An integration platform must support this change. Administrators now commonly choose to use gateways that unite APIs, events, and data.

For more detailed information, the Cloud Standards Customer Council has provided a detailed reference architecture. These can all be deployed using public, private, or hybrid clouds, and can be achieved using IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

Implementation

When it comes to implementation, it used to pay to be cautious. Cloud integration vendors used to falter when it came to providing all-in-one ecosystems. This was especially the case for organizations that chose the hybrid approach by leaving some legacy applications on-premise. They used to need to purchase specialized third-party solution designed to connect legacy applications to integration platforms in the public cloud.

Now that the state-of-the-art has matured, companies no longer need to purchase point solutions. Major platform vendors offer robust features such as fully-baked API management capabilities and iPaaS solutions, plus full support for hybrid clouds. Overall, the platform approach may work out better for integration platform consumers.

Best-of-breed approaches are inherently risky, especially when it comes to platforms that will be integral to a company’s mission-critical applications for years to come. Aggregating features from smaller companies with good products entails the risk that one or more of the vendors may not be around in a year or two. Tying these products together with third-party software is a potential security risk – and even in the best-case scenario, integrators may need to cope with a somewhat disorganized platform. Now that platform vendors have matured, it’s best to favor their approach as opposed to aggregating a group of independent vendors.

Conclusion

Enterprises that choose to adopt a cloud integration platform in the short term will be doing so at an inflection point in the world of information technology. The landscape of networks, applications, and architectures are all changing fast. Applications monoliths are changing into loosely-coupled architectures, VMs are changing into containers, and integration platforms must expand to encompass all of this.

When an enterprise attempts to adopt a cloud integration platform during this moment, they’ll be attempting to hit a moving target in terms of the technologies and architectures they need to incorporate. In other words, it is a difficult time to be making this kind of change.

Fortunately, there’s help. Aspire Systems is a technology firm with a global footprint that’s dedicated to helping companies achieve a smooth digital transformation. With over 2700 employees and over 150 active customers, we have a proven track record of helping companies vault over technological obstacles.

For more information, contact a representative at :  [email protected]

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