Control Integration, Control the Cloud?

    As big enterprise software vendors start to roll out cloud-based solutions and services, you would think that integration would be the least of their worries — at least, as far as enterprises are concerned.

    In fact, you might think it’d be a value proposition for them: The ability to give you the best of both worlds, while fully integrating your Big Vendor Enterprise App on premise with your Big Vendor Enterprise App in the cloud.

    I would certainly think that. But William Vambenepe sees it differently. Vambenepe (@vambenepe) now works with product management on Google’s Cloud Platform, but previously he worked on the tech side and as an architect for the application and middleware management part of Oracle Enterprise Manager.

    Expressing his own opinion — and not as a Google employee — in “The enterprise Cloud battle will be an integration battle,” Vambenepe writes that it’s not the application shift to the cloud, or the technology of the cloud or even getting up to speed with existing cloud vendors that worries “incumbent” enterprise vendors.

    No, he writes, it’s integration (which includes customization work, he adds) that will be the key issue.

    “The scary part, for enterprise software vendors transitioning to the SaaS model, is whether the enterprise application integration model will also change in the process,” he writes on his blog. “Once you’ve invested in integrating your enterprise applications with one another (and/or with your partners’ applications), that integration becomes the #1 reason why you don’t want to change your applications. Or even upgrade them. That’s because the integration is an extension of the application being integrated. You can’t change the app and keep the integration.”

    But the integration remains “subservient” to the applications, he adds.

    Cloud changes that. In cloud, integration becomes central; it becomes — and he italicizes this — the application.

    This is key. A lot of discussions on cloud apps focus on the data integration, which is really about the data’s location. He says that should not be “a blocker.” As I read it, it’s less about where the data goes than who does the sending.

    “Just like cell phone operators don’t want to be a ‘dumb pipe,’ enterprise software vendors don’t want to become a ‘dumb endpoint.’ They want to own the glue,” he writes.

    He’s not the only one thinking along these lines.

    Ben Kepes, who is Venture Beat’s content advisor for the CloudBeat 2012 Conference, says application integration and the cloud will be one of the major issues at the Nov. 28-29 conference.

    “True application integration, in its purest sense, is one angle that needs to be seriously analyzed,” he states. While he continues with a short discussion of who’s doing what in integration, it’s clear from his statement that it’s far from settled.

    Both Kepes and Vambenepe, and I’m sure others, are really speaking to the same question: What type of integration will best fit the cloud as it matures?

    Will it be the lightweight, API-driven integration favored by SaaS vendors now? Will it require the heavyweight middleware tools — EAI, ETL and so on — that enterprises and enterprise software vendors rely on? Or will something else entirely, perhaps some hybrid, emerge.

    Vambenepe explores the issue nicely and even toys with a few ideas of how to free the integration from being controlled by the SaaS vendor, although he doesn’t seem sold on any of them.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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