Cloud and Integration: What Experts Say You Can Expect in 2011

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My grandmother loved Star Magazine and the National Enquirer, so I consider her instrumental in my addiction to reading New Year's predictions. Please know: She'd be embarrassed to know I'm sharing her secret passion for Star, but I think I'm safe because I've tried explaining the Internet and she totally doesn't get it. She just smiles and nods when I try to explain what I do, as if to say, "Okay, crazy person. Whatever you say."


She is, after all, 92, so let's give her a break on that one.


The point is, predictions are a tradition and even if they're total crap, they're fun. Fortunately when it comes to technology, predictions tend to be more grounded in research and trends than Micki Dahne's intuition and the alignment of stars.


And, whereas horoscopes can use the full scope of the imagination along with some clever wording, analysts tend to be a bit more ... well, predictable when it comes to their forecasting. That's probably why all of the integration predictions for the coming year count on the continuation of trends and issues we've already seen in 2010.


For instance, Margaret Dawson of Hubspan, a cloud-based business process integration provider, issued five cloud and integration predictions for the new year, including a growing interest and evolution of B2B integration and the convergence of business integration and business intelligence. I asked her about both in a recent Q&A, and she discussed how B2B integrators are moving from the traditional EDI, VAN focus to a broader offering of cloud-based integration services.


But we were already seeing shifts in the B2B market during 2010, although I'll grant you, they were not as extensive as Dawson predicts for the coming year. I shared a bit about this shift in February, when I posted about EDI shifting to the cloud, and again in April when I wrote about companies upgrading their B2B integration capabilities.


Forrester's James Staten steps out a bit more in this Information Management article, 10 Cloud Predictions, although, again, there's nothing wacky here. For instance, his primary integration-related prediction is "Cloud standards still won't be here-get over it." You don't exactly need a crystal ball and Merlin to see that we're pretty far removed from any real progress on cloud standards and that doesn't have to be an obstacle to adoption. As Information Management writes:

Despite promising efforts, the market will still be too immature for standardization in 2011. However, Staten says that doesn't mean there will be a lack of real progress. The key is to not let that hold you back from experimenting and learning.

Staten's colleague, Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna, shared his predictions for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas) in a recent blog post. Among the integration-related predictions:


  • Demand will increase for integrating structured with unstructured data
  • A focus on integrating IaaS data with other real-time sources of information, including streaming data
  • A shift from integrating four to five data sources for IaaS to tens and even hundreds of data sources as companies become more comfortable with using IaaS with strategic, enterprise-wide projects


But while cloud-based solutions will continue to be embraced by more companies, there will be a side-effect, according to analyst and consultant Judith Hurwitz, who warns the fear of lock in will reach a "fever pitch" in 2011:

Traditional vendors will purchase more of the components to support the lifecycle needs of customers. How can everything be integrated from a business process and data integration standpoint and still allow for portability? Today, the answers are not there.

So what does this mean for the average IT department that is just trying to make it all work? R. "Ray" Wang, principal analyst and CEO for Constellation Research, Inc., offered this piece of advice on handling SaaS, PaaS, and other -aaS integration in a recent Forbes blog entry:

Bet on integration vendors with extensive libraries that move beyond data integration. Increasing hybrid deployment models will raise customer expectations for easier integration management. Most customers will expect integration to work beyond point to point data. Better integration will address process and meta data. Customers seek improved analytics and the resemblance of a common data model.

Are they right? Only the stars know for sure-and maybe Micki Dahne. At any rate, it's fodder for thought as we dive into 2011.