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Cloud integration lags, buck stops at enterprise architects

When enterprises adopt cloud computing, many of their legacy methods of software integration are instantly obsolete. Hanging on to old integration methods is like trying to fit square pegs into round holes, according to Eric Knipp, Gartner Inc. managing VP. Integration is the biggest barrier to cloud deployment success and the primary driver of change and new opportunities in developers and enterprise architects’ jobs, he said.

Application integration has been a pain point for organizations a long time, Knipp said. Initial efforts focused on point-to-point integration, which usually resulted in fragile integration points that, when multiplied, were not robust. The integrations would break during software upgrades, causing long release cycles. Over time, some, but not all, enterprises remediated integrations using integration middleware, including enterprise services buses (ESBs) and APIs.

“Yet, when organizations adopt SaaS, I see the same point-to-point integrations happening,” Knipp said. “Haven’t we been here before?  Don’t we know how this movie ends?  It’s not good.”

Today, cloud integration must be a core competency in the utility belt of the modern application developer in an enterprise. “When you’re talking about the mainstream enterprise that is not in the business of writing software unless they have no choice, integration has to absolutely be the first thing that you focus on,” Knipp said.

Gartner Research Director Kyle Hilgendorf agreed. “I like to refer to integration as kind of a four-headed monster,” he said. “You’ve got network integration, data integration, identity integration and then application or services integration.”  Knipp and Hilgendorf are co-authors, along with four other analysts, of Gartner’s recent 2015 Planning Guide for Cloud Computing.

To handle all four types of integration well, enterprise architects must ensure that those integration architectures are “pre-plumbed or pre-connected” prior to adoption of public cloud, Hilgendorf said.

In advance of adopting cloud, build a cloud-friendly enterprise architecture and integration strategy, Hilgendorf advised. “Think about how to bridge your networks between your data center and one or more cloud providers,” he said. “Think about how you will do single sign-on and identity and access management federation or synchronization.” Consider how to synchronize the business’ identities for authentication and authorization requests.  “All that work and much more has to be done up front by the enterprise architect and architecture team,” he said.

The integration challenges of cloud adoption alone give architects and developers a once in a lifetime opportunity to retool their skillsets for a long-term, successful career, according to both analysts. With the right skills, they’ll be valued leaders as businesses transition from traditional application architectures, deployment methodologies and sourcing arrangements.

“It is more critical than ever for integration to be a core competency in the utility belt of the modern application developer in an enterprise,” Knipp said.

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