Cloud Integration Simplified

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As the cloud matures, organizations are starting to expect more than just an online application. Wisely, they're eager to avoid cloud silos.


As I shared yesterday, that means they'll expect more when it comes to integration between their cloud applications and their on-premise infrastructure.


Fortunately, that's not as difficult as it may sound, according to integration/SOA/cloud expert and CTO of Blue Mountain Labs, David Linthicum. In fact, Linthicum says cloud integration may be easier than integration of traditional enterprise systems.

Not a ton changes when dealing with cloud computing, other than the fact that you may be dealing with systems that are outside of the firewall, and not under you're direct control. However, they also typically provide well-defined and easy to use interfaces, or APIs, which allow access to core information or services. Indeed, I would consider it much easier to connect and integrate existing SaaS and IaaS clouds than traditional enterprise systems.

The key, he writes, is to realize you're not starting from scratch and the same old patterns and solutions, for the most part, apply to the cloud.


I know. I was a skeptical, too. I mean, not that I'd know, but it just seems like integration in the cloud should be harder, right? After all, the cloud certainly comes with some challenges, including connectivity and questions about control, as this Information Management article points out.


Actually, after reading David Taber's CIO.com series on cloud applications, I see Linthicum's point.


Taber is the author of "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success: Best Practices for Growth and Profitability" and CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy, and I think you'll find that his vendor-neutral explanation of cloud application integration will go a long way to answer your questions about cloud integration and ease any fears you might have.


In the first article of the series, he explains the four different layers at which you can integrate cloud applications, which are:


  • Layer 1: On-screen integration
  • Layer 2: Presentation layer integration
  • Layer 3: Business logic integration
  • Layer 4: Data integration


It sounds familiar, right? There's nothing new or scary there, although the cloud does add a few little twists, which he explains in the full article.


In part two, he examines the four categories of solutions for achieving cloud integration:

  • Category 0: No integration solution, just your developers writing code to connect to the cloud platform. Hmmm ... hand coding. Sound familiar?
  • Category 1: Point-to-point connectors for specific applications, such as Salesforce.com. A few examples of vendors that offer this category of solutions: Pervasive, Boomi (Dell) and SnapLogic.
  • Category 2: Point-to-point connectors that use an industry standard, such as Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) and Java DataBase Connectivity (JDBC). Basically, we're talking APIs here.
  • Category 3: An integration server, which can be on-premise or hosted in the cloud. These solutions offer features such as message brokering, administration and a programming or scripting environment. Jitterbit and Informatica are among those offering this type of solution.


You'll want to read the full article, because he also explains the best use cases and the shortcomings and challenges of each category. (You may also want to read the next two parts in Taber's series on cloud applications, which address security issues.)


As you can see, it's really not that hard to follow or that different from traditional integration. Of course with integration, the problem is seldom with the actual technology, but rather the politics and the sheer workload of tackling all the silos. Fortunately, there's still time to ensure cloud apps don't become one more silo to add to your long to-do list.