Explore cloud application integration use cases

Integrating cloud applications may be complicated, but it is essential. There are a few different use cases developers can use, including iPaaS services, cloud to cloud, cloud to integrator to cloud and hybrid cloud.

Cloud application integration is dependent on data migration, synchronization, replication and quality. Also involved are the type of the integrated cloud application and whether it's links on a screen or within presentation logic, and the business logic. Development teams use connectors, messages, APIs or an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) provider and tools, among other options.

Applications need to integrate with interior systems at a functional level. Applications also share data and trigger additional actions between each other. Therefore, architecture becomes rather complicated regardless of which use case path an organization chooses. Complicated or not, integrating cloud applications is critical because data has to pass fluidly and accurately among applications if it's going to support business processes. For example, a cloud-based reservation application must pass accurate data back to an internal financial record system.

Current use cases for cloud application integration include iPaaS services, cloud to cloud, cloud to integrator to cloud, and the increasingly popular hybrid cloud.

IPaaS services

An iPaaS system generally replaces the old integration server of cloud application integration. IPaaS vendors provide integration within their prebuilt tool set. Most iPaaS services include templates for the integration of multiple types: connectors, APIs or messaging systems. Additionally, an iPaaS system has security built in internally and behind the firewall so that back-end processing of integrated applications remains protected. An iPaaS system should also include a core integration engine so the customizations and modifications needed by an organization can be developed.

In this manner, an organization's iPaaS vendor supports the integration server and all back-end systems. This setup enables users to focus on connecting their data and applications rather than on maintaining the server infrastructure system.

Cloud to cloud

Complicated or not, integrating cloud applications is critical because data has to pass fluidly and accurately among applications if it's going to support business processes.

An organization's cloud applications need to have an integration layer that sends and receives data from other cloud-based applications. The integration layer instructs the application to build the required data structure, call the Web service and allow application communication. The data portion includes multiple layers that handle data transformation (if needed), encryption and transportation. The integration layer typically is included in the development of cloud applications, but its complexity or sophistication varies depending on business processing needs. If the complexity is built in originally, the applications can be modified in a more efficient manner because the underlying structure is already there.

Cloud to integrator to cloud

In cloud to integrator to cloud, an organization uses its existing middleware infrastructure as the integrator between cloud applications. The integrator (or middleware) takes the data it receives, converts it and transports it via Web services to the receiving application. This use case is preferable when organizations have a mature middleware structure and the engineering resources to develop integration points between clouds. It allows organizations to minimize cost by using their existing middleware system. Additionally, organizations using cloud to integrator to cloud have greater flexibility and customizability than an infrastructure service generally provides.

Hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud is a cloud infrastructure or application platform with more than one cloud (public or private). Each cloud remains unique and separate, but they all are integrated to enable data movement. The hybrid cloud system is in essence a prebuilt integration model. It has become increasingly popular for many reasons, among them, that it allows organizations to maintain data control and access, leverage existing investments in computing infrastructure and migrate to cloud computing at their own pace.

The hybrid cloud system integrates dynamically to allow private cloud applications to integrate with both internal and public clouds.

Additionally, the hybrid cloud system includes support for the application development and systems operations teams (DevOps) model. DevOps tools use scripts that load and connect elements when they are deployed. Most open source and proprietary DevOps tools support both dynamic cloud and static internal resources. It's the inclusion of the use of cloud-compatible deployment tools that gives the hybrid cloud an advantage as a solution to cloud application integration problems.

Moving to the cloud is a must in the near future for any business that creates applications. The challenge lies in understanding and selecting the method that works best for an organization's specific needs. Integrating across private and public clouds is necessary for both startups and larger, more established businesses.

Many startups don't invest in capital-intensive data centers, infrastructure and on-premises proprietary software because they have a cloud-first mentality. New businesses are moving quickly into cloud application integration as a way to expand and drive business without the cost of infrastructure maintenance and support. Larger corporations are enhancing existing legacy systems to handle cloud applications so they continue to sell and generate revenue. Once these systems are integrated into a cloud-based system, they can be used without the organization letting go of critical data control for compliance or security needs. Whether an organization is large or small, new or old, cloud application integration is a requirement for business growth and success.

Next Steps

Overcoming the difficulties of cloud application integration

Cloud connectors gain traction in enterprise application integration

Demystifying the private cloud

This was first published in August 2014

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