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Does the Cloud Help or Hinder Application Integration?

December 15, 2015 No Comments

These days, it’s almost impossible to mention the term “application integration” without also adding “Platform as a Service” (or, interchangeably, “cloud”). Cloud-based application development tools and services have opened up new, more rapid approaches for bringing applications together and online.

There are many ways this is happening. Developers are using cloud-based application tools to build and integrate both traditional on-premises applications as well as cloud applications themselves. The tools, middleware and databases that make this process possible are offered both by third-party vendors or internal IT shops as PaaS.

A recent survey of 262 IT managers, which I helped conduct as part of my work with Unisphere Research, finds there has been significant growth in adoption of PaaS environments within enterprises. Application server platform as a service is the top-ranked service, as cited by more than half of respondents. Adoption is up from two years ago, in the first survey conducted for this series—from 36 percent to 51 percent. Half also report they are overseeing database platform as a service projects, and this is up from 35 percent two years ago. (An executive summary of the survey is available as a PDF download at the Independent Oracle Users Group Website.)

The survey, underwritten by Oracle, also finds PaaS is also catching on as a public offering being used by enterprises — especially database platform as a service. Database platform as a service is the most popular function, with 37 percent looking to cloud providers to host their database platforms. This is up dramatically over the past two years, more than three-fold from 12 percent of public cloud users citing this capability in the 2010 survey. Another 30 percent of respondents look to application server platform as a service, up from 18 percent.

So, is PaaS and cloud making developers’ and integrators’ lives easier?  Well, the answer is, it depends…

A separate survey out of Oracle, for example, finds integration between clouds and other clouds, or between clouds and on-premises applications is actually a real headache. For example,  83 percent “have been prevented from getting the best out of their departmental cloud applications,” and another one in four blames poor integration. Three out of four say “their ability to innovate using their cloud apps has been hindered” and the main hindrance is a lack of integration (53 percent). In fact, a majority, 54 percent, say their departments have experienced staff downtime due to cloud integration problems, and another 54 percent say project deadlines have been missed.

It’s not for lack of trying. A full 68 percent of cloud adopters say they have attempted to integrate their cloud applications, but 55 percent of those projects have failed. In addition, many simply have given up: 50 percent of companies have abandoned the user of at least one department cloud app in the last three years because of cloud integration issues.

The problem is that cloud computing, in all its forms, creates new silos. Or, as David Linthicum so famously put it: “All it takes is a credit card to spin up a SaaS application. But consider how you integrate with that cloud app, or you’ll be condemned to create another silo.”

So, what’s an enterprise to do to tackle the promises and perils of application integration in today’s cloud world? Here are some pointers:

Develop an architectural approach to cloud applications. Currently, many cloud applications are being commissioned by departments and individuals with no rhyme or reason as to what is needed elsewhere in the enterprise. As a result, there is enormous duplication of services and a growing spaghetti-like entanglement of various services and subscriptions. Enterprises need to lay out a master blueprint of what services fit into what processes.

Automate the integration process as much as possible: Integration software was unwieldy, expensive and complicated at one time, but times have changed. In a recent post, Linthicum points out that there are many easy-to-deploy lightweight integration solutions now on the market that can make things come together much quicker. “These days, you can find lightweight open source integration solutions, such as that provided by Jitterbit, or cloud-delivered integration offered by the likes of Boomi (now a part of Dell) or Pervasive Software. Even integration appliances have emerged, such as that offered by Cast Iron Systems (now a part of IBM). This is on top of the fifth- or sixth-generation, enterprise-class integration solutions sold by IBM, Informatica Oracle, Software AG, and other established players that have been around for years.”

Lean on vendors: Many cloud vendors have connectors and other integration solutions to help integrate their pieces of the puzzle. One of the most prominent examples is Salesforce’s platform, which features a range of cloud-based middleware and toolkits. Salesforce says it now has “more than 160 certified, pre-packaged partner solutions for enterprise application integration between Salesforce CRM and widely used back-office and legacy systems.”

Adopt Lean IT principles. The ultimate goal of Lean IT is simplicity. At a talk last year, Steve Bell, author of the book Lean IT, says developers often go overboard with fixes to solve business problems – writing more software to fix other software issues. The best response to a request for more software, Bell says, is “No, I’m here to prevent more software from being written. I’m here to help you simplify your process. The agile mentality is to write less code, rather than to write more code faster.


Joe McKendrick is an author and independent researcher, covering innovation, information technology trends and markets.  Much of his research work is in conjunction with Unisphere Research/ Information Today, Inc. for user groups including SHARE, Oracle Applications Users Group, Independent Oracle Users Group and International DB2 Users Group. He is also research analyst with GigaOM Pro Research.

He is a regular contributor to, and well as a contributor to CBS interactive, authoring the ZDNet “Service Oriented” site, and CBS interactive’s SmartPlanet site.

Joe is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation in business and IT.

In a previous life, he served as communications and research manager of the Administrative Management Society (AMS), an international professional association dedicated to advancing knowledge within the IT and business management fields. He is a graduate of Temple University.

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