Corporate interest in software-as-a-service apps continues to grow, particularly in the era of cloud computing. But integrating those apps with the data in core systems of a business isn’t easy. And a number of companies are working on how to make integration “suck less.”

That was the topic of discussion for a breakout session at VentureBeat’s CloudBeat 2012 conference today in Redwood City, Calif. The goal is to make data integration “lightweight,” or easy enough to be done in an automated way, said Sam Ramji (pictured second from right), vice president of strategy at Apigee, a company that sells its applications programming interface (API) platform to big corporations.

“Apps were never built to be shared, and it’s like prying information out of folks who are unwilling to share it,” Ramji said. “Our goal is to make it suck less.”

Core databases from Oracle are used to run corporate functions, but enterprises are embracing apps in a big way. Developers can write apps that run on those systems, but only if there are APIs to make the data flow back and forth. The data have to be shared in a secure way, Ramji said.

SnapLogic has built an integration platform that allows data to be accessed across both apps and core systems that are located either in the cloud or in on-premise data centers within corporations. Chris Wagner (pictured second from left), chief technology officer at SnapLogic, said that the need to integrate modern apps is driving up the costs and barriers to entry to building those apps.

“You have dozens of APIs now, and every one has a different idea of how data should be represented,” Wagner said. “SnapLogic’s idea is to ride this wave of API technology and build a platform to allow people to integrate data and move it where it’s supposed to be.”

And that integration should happen in a short time, not after a lengthy evaluation and testing process. Integration is important because new apps are generating a fountain of data, and it can’t be isolated in an inaccessible silo.

Darren Cunningham (pictured far left), vice president at Informatica Cloud, said his company also bridges core data systems and new cloud applications in the hybrid world of today’s cloud services.

Wagner said modern databases aren’t going to replace Oracle installations anytime soon, but those Oracle systems aren’t doing everything that more flexible modern apps can do.

“Systems of record won’t go anywhere,” Ramji agreed. “An Oracle-backed SAP system running five countries where you do business isn’t going to go away. But interoperability is key. Everyone now has devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones. They want to access their data on those devices. Where is all that data being stored? Do you need it after 30 days? Will you want to access data from a year ago?”

For instance, he noted, developers may want to create an app that captures Black Friday sales data, but they may also want to compare that to data from a year ago. The data from a year ago has to be accessible.

Cunningham said, “You are making a great case for Informatica.” And Ramji added, “You have to do it in a way so you expose the data and don’t crash old legacy hardware.”

Other issues arise from the mixture of cloud and core systems. Ramji noted that it’s easy to cut off access to data for an employee who is terminated. But what about making sure that there is no company data in a Dropbox account that the employee can access?

“Do you remember going from local area network (LAN) computing to the web? That was terrible. This is like it,” Ramji said.

Photo credit: Michael O’Donnell