How to Tackle the SaaS Integration Problem

Loraine Lawson

It's been said that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.

Yeah, well, apparently so are those who do know history.

"Integration Issues May Hinder SaaS Adoption," from CIOUpdate, reminds us of the integration problems created by buying "best of breed" applications in the 1980s and '90s. No doubt, you remember it well. And yet the same thing is now happening as companies opt for more software-as-a-service applications.

Just like with those proprietary best-of-breed solutions, this is code that you can't customize. How can you integrate SaaS offerings? Here's an abbreviated version of the options outlined in the article:

  • Use middleware, sold either as an appliance (Cast Iron Systems) or as an application integration platform, (e.g., Tibco).
  • Use Web services, which brings challenges with security, data models, business processes and workflow, according to the article.
  • Buy pre-integrated suites from one vendor. Microsoft, SAP and Salesforce.com are among those migrating to this approach, which relies on a "core" to provide integration for products from the vendor and its partners. For example, SAP's core is Netweaver platform. Oracle's is Fusion. Salesforce.com hopes to leverage AppExchange platform into its core. The article doesn't specify Microsoft's core, but my guess would be Sharepoint server. If you're thinking "Surely companies won't fall for that kind of lock-in," remember: This is what most companies opted to do in the '90s instead of integrating in-house applications.
  • Buy an EAI solution from a third-party.
  • Step up efforts at SOA. The articles quotes Jeff Baker, managed service practice director at Bearing Point, as saying, "As more applications adopt SOA, a lot of these integration issues start going away."

Of course, SOA doesn't solve the underlying data definitions problem, as the piece points out. This is where Master Data Management comes into play.

The full article fleshes out the problem and the possible solutions, as well as issuing advice about what IT departments can do now to encourage vendor integration, (yeah, right), and what to do if that doesn't work out.

Here are three related resources to help you learn more:

  1. SaaS integration is a problem that will impact all sizes of IT organizations. Small and mid-sized companies treated SaaS applications as silos from the start, according to integration and SOA consultant and columnist David Linthicum. See what he recommends these businesses do now to remedy the SaaS integration problem by reading "SMBs Need to Tackle SaaS Integration," from Intelligent Enterprise.
  2. Informatica offers an integration solution for organizations using Salesforce.com. Its On Demand Data Replicator allows businesses to easily replicate SaaS-related data to their databases. Learn more by reading, "Service Integrates SaaS Data On Demand," on the blog THINK IT Services.
  3. Find out what's driving Master Data Management adoption and learn how the two breeds of MDM solutions may begin to merge functionalities in our Executive Briefing, "What's Next for Master Data Management?"

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 20, 2008 9:33 AM charles charles  says:
I just found this interesting SaaS integration video on YouTube, thought it was relevant.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHxLPiZTfwk Reply
Sep 8, 2008 12:54 PM Eric MAHE Eric MAHE  says:
Have an eye on RunMyProcess (http://www.runmyprocess.com), it's the first BPM and integration platform offered on a pure SaaS model. And it includes 300+ pre-configured connectors on various SaaS applications or web services. Reply
Mar 30, 2011 5:15 PM glennda mirabete glennda mirabete  says:

Am sorry Loraine but I need education about SaaS. I'm new here and I don't know which planet I came from since I need information about this. Could you kindly explain in just simple sentences what SaaS means? Thanks


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