As with all challenges, cloud integration can be seen as a problem or an opportunity.
The potential problem: The cloud allows us to build even more silos as we expand to the cloud.
The opportunity: To rethink integration, and create a new, more functional, integration strategy, says David Linthicum, who blogs about cloud computing for InfoWorld.
Integration is more cost effective today than ever - and that makes it easier to make the ROI case for it, according to Linthicum. Standards make integration simpler and solutions that would have once cost a million dollars can now be found for a fraction of that, he writes.
That doesn't mean you should shrug off due diligence about integration in the cloud, however.
Without a plan, integration requirements can quickly erode the so-called "IT-free" value proposition of cloud solutions, warns Deloitte Consulting's Mark White and Bill Briggs in a free 2012 report on technology trends. CIO.com wrote about this challenge, and included this telling quote from the report:
As more functional business leaders independently subscribe to cloud offerings outside of the trappings of traditional IT, underlying business processes can become riddled with multiple cloud players that the organization itself must integrate and orchestrate. As a result, much of the IT-free' value proposition can dissipate at the enterprise level.
Oops. That's not good.
One option the article explores is the idea of off-loading integration to a third party, aka a cloud service broker. Mohawk, the largest premium paper manufacturer in North America, looked at its options for integrating cloud services, including iPaaS and integration appliances, but in the end, the company decided it did not want to be in the integration business.
So, it outsourced its cloud integration to Liaison, an aggregator and orchestrator of cloud services, to manage its cloud and on-premise integrations. Liaison takes the burden of integration off the company's six-person IT staff, while still allowing Mohawk to integrate its supply chain with 300 customers, 100 suppliers and external e-commerce partners. The cloud service brokerage also mediates Mohawk's third-party cloud services providers.
Giving up on the tactical, technical issues allowed Mohawk to focus on adding the new, external service to its applications, as when it added a foreign currency conversion service, the article points out.
How do you know if this approach will work for you?
The CIO.com piece offers a few guidelines for using a cloud service broker for any function, not just integration - but for the most part, all apply. Briggs and White suggest you consider a cloud service broker if all five of these factors are at play: