Thanksgiving is celebrated annually in the U.S. to commemorate a harvest feast held by the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock-and survived near-starvation with more than a little help by the Native Americans already in residence there.
If you think about it, the Pilgrims had a lot to complain about and a ton of problems still to solve: More than half of them had died, many of scurvy, and disease, famine and cold, cold winters still threatened their existence. But, they wisely took time out to give thanks both to the divine and to their new-found New World friends.
As I see it, if they could take three days to celebrate what's going right, then certainly we can take time to consider what's going right when it comes to integration. So, in honor of the great tradition of giving thanks, I offer a list of five integration trends for which you can be thankful:
1. Integration is in demand. It's true you won't see integration specifically listed on any of the "hottest tech skills" list. In fact, ETL-which showed a 57 percent growth from 2009 to 2010-dropped off a similar Dice.com survey this year. That said, last year, it made the list with 2,445 job posts in March, and my search just now uncovered 3,262 job results with ETL specifically mentioned. Whether or not integration-specific terms are on the list doesn't tell the whole story. First, integration is a core skill required for many of the skills that are on the list, including database administration and virtualization, or requests for those with specific vendor experience, whether it's Informatica-which is all about integration-or SAP, Oracle and SharePoint.
What's more, as I've shared in the past, many "hot" technology trends will translate into more integration work for IT, including cloud, a focus on business processes, vertical integration and mergers and acquisitions. In fact, Accenture's Jimmy Harris believes integration may be key to IT's future. "IT will be more akin to being an uber integrator than to being a builder of specific components," he told Network World in August.
2. More people outside IT are realizing the value of integration. It's easy to see how foundational integration is when you work with it day in and day out, but others haven't been quite so easy to convince. There are signs that's changing. In a recent global survey of 3,000 executives and analysts conducted by IBM and the MIT Sloan Management Review, data integration was the top answer given when respondents were asked to name their main data priority. After surveying its readers, Information Week concluded this month that "there's a growing realization, or perhaps it's resigned acceptance, that better business intelligence goes hand in hand with the thankless task of better information management," and they included better integration in that equation. Finally, even Wall Street is paying attention to integration and the niche companies that specialize in it.
3. New Frontiers for Integration. There are two exciting frontiers in the world of integration-open APIs, which give us new access to online business capabilities, and big data, which gives us the ability to learn more about our own business. Open APIs are giving organizations access to the Web and capabilities in a whole new way;it's even been said that APIs are transforming the Web into an integration platform. Before this year, businesses were cautious about APIs, but from what I've read and heard, that's quickly changing. "Not having an API now is like not having had a website in the 1990s," Sam Ramji, vice president of strategy at Apigee, recently told me. Apigee sells a platform for managing APIs and has seen its customer base grow to 160 enterprises this year.
Likewise, Hadoop is opening up new opportunities for using big stores of data created within an organization, whether it's data from the company's own Web traffic or data from sensors. Integration and BI vendors are offering tools for accessing, integrating and analyzing this information, which is creating new ways for businesses to save and make money. For specific examples, check out our slideshow, "Why the Hoopla over Hadoop?"
4. Integration via the cloud. Repeatedly, integration surfaced as one of the top reasons companies were uncomfortable with moving to the cloud. But this year, integration seems to have shifted from a liability to an asset for the cloud, in part because there are more companies marketing integration solutions that bridge the gap between on-premise and cloud solutions. At the same time, SaaS and cloud vendors realized that integration is an issue, and formed partnerships that allowed them to offer integration as part of a packaged solution. The end result? Integration with the cloud has gotten easier for organizations and their IT shops.
5. SOA now sells itself. Remember the days of trying to determine an ROI for SOA, explain it to the business and basically build a business case for SOA? Those days have gone, and, despite the rumors of its demise, SOA did not disappear with them. This year, a Forrester survey of 2,100 companies found that 84 percent report they're using SOA or will be by year end, and 70 percent of SOA users said it delivered enough benefit to expand its use. SOA has settled in as an accepted approach and it's widely acknowledged as enabling cloud computing. The survey also found that businesses of all sizes-small, medium and large-are using SOA.