If you're curious about Salesforce.com and integration, Ron Papas, the general manager of Informatica's On Demand Business Unit, recently wrote a post on this very topic.
Apparently, the short answer with Salesforce is integration really isn't that hard. Too bad that's not true for every SaaS offering.
Papas points out Salesforce.com offers
"a complete set of well documented APIs that make it straight forward for a good software programmer to accomplish that task."
Plus, integration vendors, including Informatica, have taken those APIs and developed their own solution.
Papas, who oversees delivering integration solutions for SaaS providers and other cloud-based applications, said your options for integrating with Salesforce tend to fall into two categories: inside the firewall and outside the firewall. If you don't want to do the work and don't have any major security drivers, then you can basically outsource the integration to a cloud, aka integration-on-demand, provider. If you need that data in-house and have the staff to do the work, then you'll want to opt for a solution that's inside the firewall.
Generally, Informatica's blog posts are pretty neutral and provide good information without too much product shill. However, this piece does lean pretty heavily on promoting Informatica's solution. Of course, there are other integration providers out there who offer both on-site and off-site integration.
As I've written before, everybody seems to integrate with Salesforce, which would make sense, given the solution's popularity. But Salesforce didn't just wait for the integration partners to show it. As IT Business Edge reader and OpenSpan CEO Francis Carden pointed out in a November comment to a , Salesforce is "one of the few companies that understood, from day one, that creating and exposing their APIs to the outside world is crucial to a growing ecosystem of collaborators."
It'll be interesting to see how your integration options evolve with SaaS providers. There's some thought that integration will move toward bundled solutions, an ideal situation for business customers who want the solution but not the added task of integrating it with their existing systems.
On the other hand, when I've asked cloud integration providers about possible buy-outs, they've laughed. Business is good for them, it seems. Plus, there are a lot of reasons why SaaS companies wouldn't want to get into the integration business, in which case, integration would remain the domain of third-party integration providers.
But buyer beware: If your service provider goes out of business, all that work will be for naught, as Burton Group Analyst Richard Watson wryly noted in this post about the recent collapse of Coghead:
"So all that development time, spent customizing UI layouts, workflows, business rules, and making integration work vanishes in a 'cloud' of smoke. ... Some Coghead customers will create better applications with the experience they've gained. But learners were not Coghead's core market. They were the DIY business person, the overstretched IT folk needing a solution for a quick situational application."
If you're thinking of contracting with a SaaS provider, make sure you discuss integration. I've been told companies have been able to negotiate integration as a whole or at least, integration support, as part of their sales package. It could spare you a lot of time and trouble - unless, apparently, you're negotiating with the integration-friendly Salesforce.