In my last blog I discussed some of the Common Problems that Cloud-Based Integration Helps Businesses Solve. But just like most other technology solutions, cloud-based integration has its own set of parameters that require management. In this blog I’m going to highlight a number of commercial factors you need to consider when introducing an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) into your business.
Finding the Right iPaaS
Choosing the correct iPaaS is about more than just fulfilling an immediate business need. For starters, different iPaaS providers have different capabilities e.g. one may provide an ESB while another provides ETL capabilities. Your internal skill set is another important consideration when choosing an iPaaS – is your team familiar with the approach of your preferred provider or would new skills be required? You should also think about the amount of services you have – do you require a service repository to effectively discover and manage services in the service lifecycle? Is an integration platform the right solution for your need or would a Platform as a Service (PaaS) be better?
Ambiguity in Responsibility
Moving to an iPaaS does not suddenly absolve your IT Department of all responsibility for your middleware. The iPaaS provider may host and maintain the platform but it is critical to agree from the outset who is responsible for what so that when, for example, there is an out of memory exception thrown by the platform, the iPaaS provider knows exactly what their responsibilities are.
Security is another important consideration to be crystal clear about, make sure your iPaaS provider knows from the get go exactly who is authorised to do what on behalf of your business.
Service level agreements (SLAs) need to exist and be perfect to ensure you know exactly what level of performance you can expect from your platform provider. You should also test and benchmark the capacity of the platform by requesting and running stress and endurance tests so you know what transaction volumes the system will be capable of handling. Know where the current procured configuration starts degrading and how it degrades (in terms of what that means for the service and the business).
Regular service health checks is another tactic you can employ to ensure your performance expectations are being met. You won’t have visibility over what is happening in the background with the platform or how isolated the hardware is from other clients, verification (automated where possible) of your SLA will help you quickly identify any potential issues.
All platforms need maintenance from time to time and it’s important to know when your provider performs maintenance, how they communicate maintenance windows and how they apply upgrades before you sign on the dotted line. This will help you to determine what impact (if any) these service disruptions will have on your business and possibly even what costing option to take.
If upgrades are enforced whether you want them or not, then make sure appropriate procedures are in place to identify any issues caused by iPaaS upgrades as early as possible.
Some iPaaS providers are more flexible than others so make sure you find out what their deployment process is. Find out exactly what the lead time is for services to be deployed and the paperwork you will need to complete. A good blend of flexibility and change control is what you should look for.
Be sure to investigate exactly what support you are getting from the iPaaS provider. Different support levels have differing prices and you should only pay for what you need based on your internal maturity. You should also consider the level of skill required by your resources to enable the business to make optimal use of the platform e.g. ESB Consultant, Business Analyst, ETL Consultant, etc.