Worry about integration is a major mistake when it comes to connecting cloud applications and data, according to two columns by separate consultancies.
The “cloud planner or architect who focuses on ‘cloud integration’ has already made the first mistake,” writes Tom Nolle, president of technology consultancy CIMI Corporation, in a recent TechTarget column.
“To create a successful cloud integration strategy, forget the cloud and embrace the benefits of workflow analysis,” Nolle says. That means architects should stop viewing cloud as a “deployment,” which can be fatal. Nolle adds:
“The best integration strategies start with a unified model for passing work items, which means cloud architects should maximize the flexibility of workflow engines. … Before architects even start putting things together, much less making processes cloud-compatible, they have to make them logically efficient.”
Steve Weissman, a consultant with the Holly Group, researched integration approaches back in 2000. Even then, he wrote in a different TechTarget column, companies needed to focus less on integration and more on interoperability.
“The reason is that they need to get their siloes of information to work together, and they want to do so without having to bind them programmatically,” Weissman writes. “As the cloud becomes more mainstream, this concern is amplified.”
Weissman outlines the options for cloud interoperability and integration, including:
- APIs, the most common approach to managing data between cloud and on-premise
- Software development kits (SDKs)
- Plug-and-play connectors
- BPM (business process management, which supports interoperability)
- Enterprise application integration (EAI, which leverages a service bus)
- Metadata management/enterprise search
How do you shift your thinking away from tactical integration to a more strategic approach to connecting with the cloud? Here are seven factors Weissman and Nolle say you should understand before taking action.
- Know the business’ needs—the real needs. “These cloud integration services range from the programmatic to the practical,” Weissman states. “If all management wants to do is get its salespeople up on Salesforce.com, most of the options here may be unnecessary.”
- Know the workflow. It’s not enough to discuss what the business needs. You also need to understand each step in the business process. “The right time to think about the cloud in detail is after the workflow-circle homework has been done and the natural integration requirements have been laid out,” advises Nolle.
- Know your skill set. “Time is money, of course, and if staff needs training before it embraces the cloud, factor that into the overall cost projections in order to avoid a nasty surprise,” Weissman warns.
- Know your cloud provider’s skill set. Does the cloud provider offer an API? Some don’t. What about a software development kit, which includes APIs, as well as debugging tools and technical guidance, usually for free? Before you commit, go over all the options with the provider.
- Know the costs for every option. Will you do the work or will the provider? Will you need third-party software or consultants? Regardless, you need to know the cost and who’s responsible for paying for it. “It will also be critical to calculate what those relevant costs will turn out to be,” Weissman writes.
- Know the time. One of the pitfalls of cloud integration can be time. People expect speed with the cloud, but integration points are a common place for the process to stall. That’s why Nolle recommends that architects measure time as part of the application performance management functions.
- Know the data workflow. This relates back to “know the time,” but it’s important to look specifically at the data’s role in the performance variability, advises Nolle. Architects should try to reduce the time a circular workflow takes to cross cloud boundaries, he states, adding “Interfaces at the crossing points can be a special integration target.”