Cloud

Cloud app integration: Incredibly important, but also problematic

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Ben Kepes is a content adviser for the CloudBeat 2012 conference.

My background and entry into the technology industry came from my experience wrangling tech for a number of different small and mid-sized businesses. I’ve seen first hand just how much work is involved in tailoring discrete solutions into something that actually meets the specific needs of the business. This is even more difficult for resource constrained small businesses that lack the cash and IT skills of enterprise.

As we move into the cloud-dominated world, the issue of integration is made more prominent as enterprises realize just how many different systems are being used throughout their organizations. While one of the best things about cloud is the widespread democratization of technology, this is also one of the most problematic areas. All of a sudden, managers and IT staff are scratching their heads about how to reconcile the issues created by business units having to interact with many software solutions from a ton of different vendors.

It’s for this reason that when Paul Miller and I started talking about content for the upcoming CloudBeat conference, that integration and the cloud was one of the areas we wanted to focus on. But my take on integration is even wider than simply “stitching together a few different solutions”.

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True application integration, in its purest sense, is one angle that needs to be seriously analyzed. There are many companies trying to solve this conundrum — from working out how to integrate the data and processes of businesses using both QuickBooks and Salesforce to pre-packaging “bundles” of software for specific verticals and selling them as a package. Companies like SnapLogic, Dell Boomi, IBM Cast Iron, and others are trying to work on this problem set.

But there are other areas that integration come into play — services like Tibco’s Tibbr and Salesforce’s Chatter are attempting to build a social fabric across an organization that, at least with a broader definition, constitutes a sort of integration. They bring together discrete sets of data and workflow and try and deliver sense out of them all.

Other solutions like WalkMe aim to resolve the cognitive dissonance that comes from too much exposure to too many different solutions. WalkMe has taken the approach of enabling online self-service to overcome some of what integration aims to solve — the user experience problems caused by discrete packets of software.

And then there is a further discussion to be had, that of whether lightweight integrations, a sort of “minimum viable product” approach to software integration, is sufficient in this loosely couple modern world or whether the traditional enterprise approach with big and heavy integration solutions, data warehousing and ETL is still required — does the proliferation of APIs solve this issue?

I’m looking forward to moderating an integration session at CloudBeat where I’ll be talking with panelists including SnapLogic CTO Chris Wagner and Informatica SVP Juan Carlos Soto. The overarching theme for the integration track is to explore the real need for consistent workflows, integration tools, common data formats, and other solutions to help tie a multitude of disparate systems together.

In my session, we’ll be focusing strongly on lightweight cloud integration versus enterprise-grade and asking whether companies really need all the bells and whistles that come with traditional integration solutions, like ESBs, ETL, or EAI tools. Or are today’s exponentially growing library of APIs, paired with more affordable SaaS-based integration tools, enough to get the job done well?

It’s going to be a fun and informative session — why don’t you join us?

ben-kepesBen Kepes is a technology evangelist, investor, commentator, and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity, and agility, all enabled by the cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users. You can follow Ben on Twitter.

System integration concept image via alphaspirit/Shutterstock

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