SaaS, Mobile Put Focus on Application Integration

Loraine Lawson

The technology sector is about to spend a lot more time talking about application integration for a very simple reason: SaaS and mobile devices.

In the past five years or so, the technology sector’s discussed data integration as people struggled to manage all those data warehouses and data marts and data-whatsit and put that data to work in analytics and business intelligence systems.

At the same time, enterprise application integration (EAI) fell out of favor as an approach and its enterprise service bus (ESB) became associated more with SOA.

But this year, there will be a bigger focus on cloud and SaaS integration, and as a result, application integration will come front-and-center again.

That’s because when businesses share data with a SaaS provider, they’re interacting with the application — and not a data warehouse. So you have to focus on integration at the application level.

Now, for you CIOs out there, here’s a confession: When I started covering integration, it took me a long time and a lecture from a vendor to understand that application integration and data integration are really about the same thing: Sharing the data. I point this out because you should know that this issue can be very confusing for business people and possibly even IT folks who don’t deal with integration on a regular basis.

But just because the focus is shifting to application integration doesn’t mean we’ll be talking about EAI and ESBs again.

Business readers need to know that while you might be able to solve some SaaS integration with an ESB, SaaS providers and developers solve that integration with APIs, written in what’s called the RESTful style (it can be applied to different languages, but uses HTTP standards). API stands for application programming interface, which doesn’t really explain much, but is good to know.

Here’s a simpler way to understand why REST APIs are so beloved on the Web. We know that anything with a lot of space — think a video, but it can also be true with code — takes up a lot of bandwidth, right? And smart developers want to avoid that — particularly for SaaS or mobile devices.

REST APIs are much less cumbersome than their enterprise counterpart, SOAP/Web services and the enterprise service buses that share these services. To understand just how much difference there is, you can check out this sample code showing the same query in REST vs. SOAP/Web Services.

Or you can just view this illustration, which explains the difference as if your data is Martin Lawrence. See how big SOAP is and how tiny REST is?

That means you’re going to hear a lot about APIs this year. APIs are not new. Some people considered them as an alternative to ESBs at least as far back as 2001. But APIs came into their own with mobile apps and SaaS.

What’s the point of this integration and development trivia? It’s the background for understanding two emerging integration challenges:  integrating enterprise data with SaaS (or vice versa) and opening up your own data to mobile devices.

The way you manage these issues is by API. For many of you, that will mean investing in API management tools.

In the coming days, I’ll be sharing more about these tools and the challenges of APIs.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 18, 2013 2:29 PM Jeff Bradshaw Jeff Bradshaw  says:
A good writeup on the different ways of integrating the mobile world. It is of course a lot easier integrating mobile code using REST rather than SOAP, and of course where network bandwidth is a concern (for example we have customers doing this down in South Africa) it makes a massive difference to application usability. However, I think its not all about the size of the data and REST vs SOAP, the key is how you integrate with the API's and the systems requesting the data. An ESB / EAI tool is a way to do it, but it is often a sledgehammer to crack a nut, the other consideration is where you host the integration logic and how fast you can adapt to change, which is often outside of your control when using SaaS based solutions. Integrating Enterprise data with SaaS is a sweet spot for hosted SaaS integration providers, and smaller more agile tools which can be either cloud hosted or on-premise (after all you do need some level of control of your own destiny). Reply
Jan 18, 2013 6:26 PM Marty Marty  says:
Loraine, You are spot on in terms of what we are seeing in the market. CIOs are wasting precious time and budget attempting to use Integration platforms contemplated in the late 90's. They need modern web style integration platforms. Reply
Feb 21, 2013 10:31 AM Robins133 Robins133  says:
Loraine, You written about integration of application. before two days i read one blog where mentioning that IaaS is better than SaaS and PaaS. I think this is only terms. you have to work rigorously, consistently and quality with result oriented approach. iConnect software solutions are small firm but its tremendous one which i experienced. Thank You Reply

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