Cloud integration continues to be a big issue for companies, as recent research shows. But it isn’t always a big deal.
In fact, you may be surprised at the integration options available. Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, a research and advisory firm, told TechTarget that 80 percent of cloud integration can be handled with by “out-of-the-box integration.”
There are even options for integrating unstructured data, such as video, images, XML and geospatial data.
Basically, as I detail in a soon-to-be-released slideshow, there are three approaches to integrating SaaS:
- Connectors, which are the “prepacked” integration Wettemann spoke of, are one of the easiest way to solve integration. They can run on-premise or in the cloud. When they run in the cloud, on a third-party’s server, it’s called cloud-based integration, or, more commonly, integration as a service.
- Custom code, which is what a surprising number of SaaS providers and organizations do to solve integration.
- Embedded integration built with an integration platform as service (iPaaS).
But it seems to me the problem isn’t so much how to solve integration, but how to find the right solution for you. Here are a few pointers I’ve picked up while researching this topic:
1. Discuss integration before you sign on with a SaaS provider. SaaS and cloud providers are well aware that integration is a major barrier to their clients and should at least be able to talk to you about your options. A recent Mulesoft/THINKstrategies survey found that one in every two SaaS companies say more than 50 percent of their customers require some form of integration.
If your service provider suggests writing custom code for a point-to-point integration, it’s going to add time and money to your project. Ask who will maintain the integration, what service-level agreements the vendor will offer on the integration, how much it will cost and how long it will take.
2. Before you commit to custom code, talk to integration vendors. Most — possibly all — middleware and integration vendors offer SaaS integration solutions these days.
3. Still no solution? Shop the marketplaces. Several integration vendors, including SnapLogic, Informatica, Pervasive Software and Jitterbit support communities or shops where developers can sell their custom integration connectors or flows. The developers can set a price for these integrations, allowing you to buy rather than build. Bottom line: Unless you’re trying to integrate a highly niche or custom-built application or data format, there’s a good chance someone may have already addressed this problem for you.
4. If you want to integrate with Salesforce.com, you’re in luck. In my opinion, Salesforce.com is a model for integration support in the SaaS industry. I’m having a hard time finding a SaaS vendor who can beat Salesforce when it comes to documenting integration options.
Salesforce offers support for five approaches to integration: Connectors for 75 integration solutions; custom code; the App Exchange, which offers integration for over 800 applications and components; native connectors for ERP and desktop productivity tools; and cloud services toolkits for Amazon, Google App Engine and Facebook.
If that’s not enough, almost everybody in the cloud integration business offers connectors to Salesforce.
You would think the widely publicized and promoted options for integrating Salesforce would be enough, but no. Force.com recently launched a beta Cookbook of Best Practices and Code Samples, with 33 Web service APIs and toolkits for integration, plus help for databases.