Forbes Columnist Sees Signs of Convergence in Integration

Loraine Lawson
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Drivers and Challenges of Enterprise Integration Revealed

“Integration” can be a tricky word in regards to technology, and so can “convergence.”

For instance, is single sign-on a type of integration? It may appear so to end users, but when IT talks about integration, it typically means data is going to be integrated.

In fact, as someone once explained to me, even application integration is about sharing data; it just happens at the application level, instead of the data storage level.

That’s why I’m a bit skeptical about a recent Forbes column that predicts a convergence of single sign-on, API management and application integration.

“Lately I’ve been noticing some real convergence in some generally unrelated areas – Single Sign-On (SSO), the ability to sign into multiple applications and services via one portal, application integration and API management are all different take on a similar problem space and we’re starting to see vendors in the different areas move into adjacent territory,” explains writer and Madeira Cloud Advisor Ben Kepes.

He gives three examples:

  • SnapLogic, which has long supported API management and application integration, is now supporting process orchestration. I’m unclear how that relates to single-sign on, though.
  • MuleSoft, which began as an open source ESB, but “of late it has branched strongly into a more general API management space,” Kepes writes. That’s true if by “of late” you mean 2012.
  • Bitium, a single-sign on and application management vendor and Zapier, which Programmable Web classifies as an iPaaS along the lines of MuleSoft and SnapLogic, but is more commonly compared to IFTTT, which seems to be more about BPM-style automation and integration of processes.

“What all of these different takes on the problem space seem to lack, however, is an appreciation for the complexity a user finds when trying to utilize a number of different products,” Kepes writes.

He’s looking for something more along the lines of SAP or Oracle, where one interface rules them all.

On one hand, he’s right. That single sign-on, one interface doesn’t exist. But I think, though, he’s comparing apples to oranges. Vendors such as MuleSoft, SnapLogic and I would assume Zapier don’t deal with the front end. They’re just connecting the data or services that already exist in front-end apps or applications. They don’t control the interface, and I’m not sure why they would want to.

What’s more, I’m not sure he made a convincing case for how API management and application integration are merging with single sign-on, although I have had vendors make the pitch that single sign-on is a type of integration.

I’m not the only one who questions that connection.

“Ben, I agree the integration vendors could become API directories as well (the ancient UDDI concept),” writes one reader named Smallya. “But mixing authentication into that is years away. Conceptually they look just the same as another API call, I just cannot see enterprise software vendors delegating the authentication and access control into a federated user store like Open Connect just yet.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is this an area of potential convergence? Does single sign-on really count as integration?

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