SaaS Integration: Do You Need On-Premise Middleware?

    Here’s a bit of advice for those wanting to move more applications to the cloud: You might want to hang onto that on-premise middleware.

    At least, that’s what Ardent Leisure’s IT team concluded after a major push to SaaS applications.

    Ardent Leisure runs a variety of fun parks and recreational businesses. It shared its experience with software-as-a-service with the Australian business site, IT News, recently, including a number of “lessons learned.” Among those lessons: You’ll probably need middleware, and data-intensive applications are  “unlikely to make a great fit for the cloud.”

    Ardent’s move to the cloud focused on human resources functions, such as payroll and employee recruitment and on-boarding.

    Here’s what raises a question in my mind, though: Ardent’s cloud choices are all owned by Oracle: Taleo and Fusion HCM. They also wanted to connect it with JD Edwards, another Oracle-owned solution.

    So should we be surprised that they ended up using Oracle middleware to integrate the SaaS solutions? I don’t know.

    Roger Franklin, Arden’s enterprise systems manager, says he loves SaaS solutions, but the problem boiled down to managing, provisioning and master data. To solve the problem, there’s a SOA layer that he says acts as a “connection layer,” exposing employee master data.

    Web services are used to update the various applications, SaaS and on-premise, but ensuring those changes take place required a business activity monitoring (BAM) system, which basically runs the equivalent of a ping test to see if the updates were accepted.

    Ardent also uses Oracle’s WebCenter portal as a dashboard interface for features and data from all the applications.

    While Ardent found middleware necessary, not everyone agrees with that conclusion. Rishabh Software recently ran a post on the “Six Benefits of Cloud Computing Integration” that provides a look at how cloud computing integration can substitute for on-premise middleware — although it certainly lacks the implementation details offered by Franklin.

    In many ways, this piece is about managing expectations when you move to SaaS.

    Franklin found business users also were accustomed to a certain amount of customization with enterprise apps that just isn’t achievable with SaaS.

    In fact, he said, if you want new features or functions, you only have three options, according to Franklin:

    • Ask your middleware team to see if there are any Web services that can be retooled.
    • Make a request with the vendor for specific functions in the next release.
    • Lobby the vendor by asking 35 other people running the same software and to request the same function, using the exact same wording.
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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