The Integration Shortcomings of Data Standards

Loraine Lawson

ebizQ hosted a discussion recently about whether there should be standards for cloud computing. Personally, I suspect it's irrelevant. At some point, there will be standards. Whether those standards are adopted-well, that's a different question. As Dr. Jerry A. Smith pointed out, standards are what happen as technology matures:

Standards are an important part of the growing up process; that is, the maturity process. They are culturally specific means to describe common values and behaviors, which enables individuals to function independently within the context of a larger community.

Not so long ago, we were talking about SaaS and data interoperability standards. That conversation seems to have fallen off the radar a bit, perhaps usurped by the cloud discussion. But recently, David Linthicum made a compelling case for why SaaS data standards won't solve all your integration woes.


He starts with an overview of the three things you need to consider with SaaS integration-protocols (i.e., the networking layers); interfaces (typically APIs, built with REST or SOAP) and structure, (the way the data's structured, e.g., metadata). It's easy enough to follow. Because standards may address any and all of these issues, once standards come into play, you have to monitor all three, which can be a major headache for IT:

Standards are not perfect. They add work for enterprise IT, who now need to track and update core integration mechanisms around changing standards which includes interface, structure, and sometimes even protocol. This does not mean the work is always unproductive, but in many cases it is.

When it comes to the future of standards and SaaS integration, Linthicum has some good news and some bad news. First, the good news: Standard interfaces will become more common, which will make your life easier as proprietary interfaces give way to interfaces using open standards. Now, the bad news: You'll see more standards for SaaS and cloud computing-and you'll have to keep up with all the standards and any changes around those standards. Pass the aspirin.


Linthicum is writing for Pervasive Software's blog; Pervasive is a data- integration company that offers a data-integration solution for SaaS-based applications. I've seen Linthicum's writings on standards before, and I'm comfortable saying that his opinion on them is unchanged. But, I mention it because the focus of the argument is to explain how an integration platform can help solve some of the challenges created by standards.


And, clearly, that's what Pervasive's selling-in fact, I recently interviewed the company's director of Worldwide Marketing for Integration and International Channels about how its solution can help manage SaaS integration.


Nonetheless, it's a well-made point: If you're waiting for SaaS data standards to solve all your integration concerns, you'd do well to consider his arguments. Then, take Gartner's advice and craft your own integration strategy before adopting SaaS applications.

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