Cloud-based integration holds many advantages for businesses in dynamic marketplaces. Flexibility and scalability are just the tip of the iceberg of the benefits that can be experienced with Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) or cloud integration services from providers such as AWS and Azure. In this blog I will explore some common business problems that these two cloud-based integration methods can help businesses solve.
1. Disparate (and Multiple) Costs
The most obvious benefit of cloud-based integration (or indeed, any cloud activity) is the reduced and/or consolidated cost. No need to have master agreements with multiple vendors such as hardware, OS, application server, ESB software, database vendor, hardware consultants and database consultants – an iPaaS provides a single, easy to understand cost that hides all of these layers. This consolidated cost reduces the complexity, saving cash again as less time is spent in procurement and setup processes by various resources. These resources are then free to focus on other areas or projects which has onward benefits for the whole company.
Cloud integration services tend to charge based on usage, so this can be more complex to decipher than an iPaaS cost structure which is more predictable. However, this usage-based cost model allows for reduced costs as you only pay for what you use, rather than a lump, albeit predictable, sum. Costs are also still consolidated, as again you only need to deal with one vendor and much of the hardware complexity is hidden and managed by the provider.
2. Transient Integration requirements
Sometimes events (such as a once-off world sporting or conference event) will present a business with new opportunities, but this also comes with unique new integration requirements. Organisations looking to take advantage of these opportunities without incurring long-term costs can find cloud-based integration particularly attractive. An iPaaS with optional annual renewal, for example, would serve this purpose well, providing the powerful capability the business needs without any long-term commitments or investments in on-premise hardware. Integration Services from providers such as AWS and Azure (as mentioned above) charge on usage – this allows your integration use (and spend) to scale up and down almost infinitely, making this another great, simplified option for temporary integrations.
3. Legacy siloed integration platforms
Large companies more often than not have problems consolidating multiple integration platforms. These could have originated because of differing domain responsibilities across departments or the amalgamation of companies, each with their own integration platform. This leads to problems like inter-departmental office politics, effort duplication, differing ways of doing things, unnecessary complexity, domain responsibility grey areas, and of course additional cost of running separate integration teams & environments.
Simply placing the people from multiple departments into one integration department doesn’t solve the problem. It takes some difficult tightrope-walking to consolidate the platforms. There are questions like which platform to consolidate to, which technology, which skill-set, which procedures, create a new platform or use an existing one, consolidated platform capacity, effect on BAU, cost of consolidation, time to market, etc.
Cloud-based integration can fill the gap quickly. An iPaaS can provide a ‘neutral’ platform, with no legacy baggage, in a short amount of time. Or cloud integration services can be used to augment existing integration platforms that may no longer fulfil all the business requirements. In these ways, cloud-based integration cuts out a lot of the difficulty surrounding technology consolidation and leaves the team free to focus on procedures, standards, business value, service consolidation roadmap and the like.
4. Technical Complexity
As discussed above, cloud-based integration platforms provide more flexibility and scalability than traditional on-premise solutions. However, these days they also come with a formidable library of ‘out of the box’ templates, adaptors, and standards/protocols that ensure a quick time to market without getting consumed with technical difficulty. In fact, these ‘integration accelerators’ have become one of the more aggressive selling points, with many vendors promising a wider variety or a more domain-specific offering than their competitors.
With templates providing standard patterns for common integration scenarios, a wide range of prebuilt adapters providing near instantaneous access to common application systems, and common business-focussed protocols (graphical interfaces), the iPaaS gives a business all the tools required to design and deploy a business process, product or service to enable or support a specific business goal. Of course, where there is a requirement for more complex ‘custom’ integrations to be built, this can also be done in an iPaaS. Essentially, a cloud-based integration platform reduces internal technical complexity for organisations so they can get on with their core business.
5. Large infrastructure lead times that turn into long project turnaround times
We’ve all been there. A major new project comes along. It has massive volume forecasts, way more than the current platform is designed to handle. Even if a company uses virtual machines (VMs) it is still constrained by the hardware underneath the VM.
Buying enterprise-grade hardware is not cheap and it definitely is not fast. There is the sales lead time, budget planning, the purchase approval, the ordering, the delivery, the physical installation, the setup, the software installation and configuration.
Compare this with iPaaS platforms who tout their easy onramping, quick time to market and scalability lead times as key differentiators. This makes sense as they are a kind of wholesale shop, with transaction processing capacity volumes in stock for sale. This is, after all, where they make their money and the faster they can provide a new client/existing client with cloud capacity the better for everyone involved.
Cloud Integration Services from AWS and Azure, for example, are often even easier. All you need to get started is a credit card and an account, with an essentially infinite amount of transaction processing capacity available across their global network. You can essentially start ‘today’ and have near zero costs while you iterate through build, showcase, tweak cycles. And in our experience the sooner you can get feedback from the business on their integration processes the better the quality of the integration.
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