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The good news is your organization has data and applications in several clouds. The bad news is very little of it is integrated.
But you're far from alone. While market research firm Infonetics said 74% of the companies it surveyed had a hybrid cloud strategy by the end of 2014, the integration part of that strategy remains murky at best for many companies.
We asked integration vendors, analysts and industry experts which nine questions companies should be asked when they're putting a hybrid cloud application integration strategy in place. Here is their collective wisdom:
- What are you not going to move to the cloud? It seems obvious, but there are legacy applications that are doing just fine in the data center, said SnapLogic's vice president of marketing Darren Cunningham. "You need to make sure you have an integration plan for those systems," he said. "There are a plethora of applications behind the firewall that are going to continue to stay there. So, you have to be sure you have an integration strategy that includes those applications."
Tom NollePresident, CIMI consultancy
- Where will most of the future development take place? To integrate and ultimately monitor an application, start by determining where it's going to be built, advised Forrester Research analyst Dave Bartoletti. "Apps you build in the cloud look different from other applications, so when it comes time to integrate them, or eventually monitor them, companies need to take that into consideration. A lot of companies don't have the tools in place for this."
- What is the use case? "That's the first question to ask," said Ajay Gandhi, Informatica's vice president of cloud marketing. "Do I want to connect to on-premises data, and if I do, are there complicated APIs and databases? A lot of the reason you want an integrated hybrid cloud is to take care of the back-end integration. You shouldn't be in the business of monitoring the code. That's what the integration solution is for." Tom Nolle, president of consulting company CIMI Corp., believes that customers and vendors underappreciate the difficulties involved in true integration. Businesses must have a laser-sharp focus on what the goals really are, he said. "Companies [jumping on the cloud bandwagon] are just taken in by too much publicity and not enough benefit case."
- What kinds of applications are involved? In application development, things are not straightforward anymore, warned Chris Purpura, vice president of business development at MuleSoft. "Applications are becoming composite," he said. "That makes things trickier. What happens when an application has to ping 10 other external systems to get information back? That's another thing to think about."
- Who will manage the integration? Forrester's Bartoletti said companies need to clearly identify the people or groups that will be charged with managing the process because, like the hybrid cloud, it might be a hybrid group of traditional IT employees, DevOps people and perhaps even folks from the business side. SnapLogic's Cunningham stressed the potential for do-it-yourself integration, where there wouldn't be a single group in charge of integration. "We're seeing customers letting users drive the integration. The users fill out the use case, submit the forms and then are provisioned to do it themselves. It's the reality of self-service."
- How quickly can this happen? Customers don't need to reinvent the wheel when thinking about integration. Many vendors -- including Informatica and SnapLogic -- have developed preconfigured templates for common use cases that drop relatively easily in place. "Customers should ask what work has already been done for them," Gandhi suggested. Informatica has prebuilt content for customers to choose from, streamlining the integration process. And Cunningham said SnapLogic's templates and best practices have turned a job that took several weeks into an integration task that can be completed in a day or two.
- What's the next application? "You really have to take the long view, not just integrating one application but the next -- and the next," warned Cunningham. "That one application is going to have a whole other set of apps to eventually integrate with. This isn't about point-to-point integration but about multipoint integration."
- Can I make do with what I have? This is a critical question to ask, Forrester's Bartoletti said. "Should I buy the best of breed and deal with integration later or make what I have work?" Whichever way a business goes, time is of the essence and integration is key. Bartoletti suggested always asking current vendors whether existing functionality can be extended some to aid in integration.
- Should you trust the vendor? Nope. Cunningham didn't hold back: "Don't believe what the cloud application vendor is telling you if he says to push the integration down the road or he makes it seem trivial because his company has great service and/or an open platform. You can't wait on integration. You just can't." And customers should be skeptical when an on-premises vendor starts bragging about how his product will easily extend in to a hybrid cloud environment, Gandhi said. "Those products have a 'veneer of cloudiness' as we call them," he said. "You want to get to the reality of it all."
Architecting cloud platforms