I posted yesterday about how SOA architect Marc Rix had written on the long-term ROI of using SOA for integration, as opposed to the more traditional point-to-point integration. Basically, he contends that point-to-point may make for a cheaper projects, but SOA saves more money for the company in the long run.
One of his key reasons for favoring SOA is that inevitably, nodes integrated for one project will wind up being reintegrated time and time again as the project or technology moves out of its silo and into the organization.
Small and mid-sized businesses are facing a similar lesson with SaaS.
David Linthicum posted this item on the Intelligent Enterprise Weblog about how many small and mid-sized businesses must now tackle software as a service integration projects. When small and mid-sized companies first bought into SaaS applications, they treated them as silos. The problem is, the number of SaaS solutions kept growing - and none of them were tied into the company's IT systems.
Saugatuck Technology found that 17 percent of SMBs are using more than one application delivered via SaaS, according to this ComputerWeekly article. That's a hefty amount of business activity to have "siloed" off into a SaaS.
So, now everyone's working to integrate these SaaS apps into their systems.
Of course, in retrospect, it's easy to judge and wonder why it didn't occur to someone to integrate these apps in the first place. But, as Liz Herbert, a senior analyst at Forrester, points out in the ComputerWeekly piece, everybody was focused on customization -- not integration. Plus, let's face it, most companies were a bit afraid to let SaaS into the corporate gates, much less greet them with open arms and ESBs.
The ComputerWeekly piece discusses some integration solutions, including a beta offering called Boomi On Demand, which is basically a tool aimed at SMBs that promises to integrate SaaS applications with other SaaS and with internal systems.
I was also a bit confounded to see Informatica and other companies advocate an on-demand SaaS integration solution that is also an SaaS.
But Linthicum suggests you start with your SaaS vendor. While many offer Web services or APIs that support integration, that most likely won't be enough, he says. However, the SaaS vendors should be able to point you toward an integration vendor who understands the SaaS's technology and will therefore be able to help you bridge the gap between the SaaS and your own systems. That said, I should note that Linthicum is the former chief executive officer for BRIDGEWERX, a SaaS integration provider.
He goes on to suggest businesses break the integration into three phases: planning, spending and managing. He offers pointers for each phase.