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What developers need to know about cloud app integration

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Why and how to use iPaaS to integrate cloud services, enterprise apps

IPaaS is gaining traction with cloud services and enterprise app integration. Ovum IT's Saurabh Sharma shares iPaaS best practices.

Why should I use integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)? How does iPaaS stack up against Software as a Service (SaaS) open application programming interfaces (APIs) and other solutions for integrating cloud services and enterprise applications? What's your advice for getting started with iPaaS?

IPaaS has moved beyond being a predominant approach to SaaS integration, and both large and small and medium-sized enterprises are increasingly using iPaaS for less-complex hybrid integration scenarios.

Some SaaS vendors are offering packaged integration -- cloud-based integration capabilities delivered with SaaS solutions -- thereby easing integration between on-premises and SaaS applications. From the perspective of the customer, packaged integration is ideal. Apart from simplifying the complexity of integration process, end-to-end SaaS solutions also offer benefits such as flexible pricing and easier upgrades.

Saurabh Sharma, senior analyst, Ovum ITSaurabh Sharma

There is a downside to packaged integration: It increases the threat of vendor lock-in. Because of the greater dependence of the customer on the existing SaaS vendor, it is difficult to switch providers in the case of any service-related issues, and customers will have to take on additional expenditure for achieving integration between SaaS and other applications (on-premises or SaaS-based).

The range of applications supported by packaged integration solutions is also limited. Packaged integration is primarily available with SaaS solutions provided by vendors such as, Workday, NetSuite, Taleo, SuccessFactors and RightNow.

APIs alone cannot ensure interaction between SaaS and on-premises applications.

SaaS providers often claim that they provide Web-services APIs to ease the integration between SaaS and on-premises applications. However, APIs alone cannot ensure interaction between SaaS and on-premises applications. On-premises applications may have been developed under different standards and may need a large effort in terms of custom-code development for interacting with SaaS applications. It is also worth bearing in mind that not all interfaces can be exposed as Web services, and at times critical functionality is not available for integration through Web-services APIs.

Open APIs would definitely ease the complexity of SaaS integration but cannot be thought of as the silver bullet to application integration, because not every functionality is exposed through Web APIs.

Given that total cost of ownership and faster time to value is a key requirement for SaaS integration projects, iPaaS could be a 'good enough' solution. IPaaS solutions offer the usual benefits of cloud services, such as lower upfront Capex, flexible pricing and rapid scalability.

It is worth noting that iPaaS is not a silver bullet for integration. In the case of scenarios involving a mix of on-premises, SaaS and business-to-business integration, traditional on-premises integration platforms should be used for supporting higher transaction loads and low-latency requirements -- while iPaaS is well suited for SaaS integration and relatively less-complex B2B integration needs.

Organizations should ask for a proof of concept when considering an iPaaS solution to check whether it caters to their specific requirements. To develop a proper understanding of application integration needs, organizations should take into account the following points:

  • What type of integration is needed: SaaS-to-on-premises, on-premises-to-on-premises, SaaS-to-SaaS or B2B integration?
  • In the near-term, is social and mobile application integration expected to emerge as a key requirement?
  • Is there a need for supporting API management and big data processing?
  • What is the expected average and peak transaction load?
  • What are data security and governance needs?

IPaaS is a suitable approach for:

  • SaaS integration;
  • Less complex on-premises and B2B integration scenarios where faster time to value is a key requirement; and
  • Basic social and mobile-enablement needs.

Once IT is conversant with the features and functionality provided by iPaaS solutions, the use of iPaaS can be extended from SaaS integration to relatively less-complex on-premises and B2B integration that does not involve requirements such as low-latency messaging and data-intensive transactions, or the processing of a large number of transactions or messages on a daily basis.

About the author:
Saurabh Sharma is a senior analyst with Ovum IT and a member of Ovum's IT Solutions team. He focuses on service-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration. Sharma's research covers different approaches to application-to-application (A2A), B2B and cloud service integration, including SOA and other on-premises integration platforms and solutions, iPaaS solutions and integration outsourcing/brokerage services. He also focuses on other associated disciplines, such as API management, integration architecture, and communications and business process integration.

Follow us on Twitter at @SearchCloudApps.

This was first published in May 2013



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Essential Guide

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