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Why We Need Cloud Integration Architecture

by Chris Curran on February 3, 2011 [email] [twitter]

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A few years ago, a consumer products company I’m familiar with committed to outsourcing its infrastructure and as much of its application portfolio as possible. Its strategic application decisions were heavily influenced by outsourced and SaaS offering, placing its CRM and several customer community sites in the cloud. With a stable set of hosted, cloud and SaaS apps, they were shocked to find that they didn’t talk to one another to provide a single view of their customers. Additionally, none of the vendors had an answer for the integration. This failing of the current state of cloud computing speaks to both adoption and hidden costs of fully embracing the cloud model.  This and other similar cases prove to me that integration is the primary barrier to systematic adoption of cloud computing.

This reminds me of the “best of breed” systems architecture problem in which an organization chooses to select the best application software for each of its business functions but is also saddled with integrating each of them together (often a tedious, custom project in itself). The need for this software integration created the enterprise application integration (EAI) middleware category.

One of my telecommunications clients took this approach which seemed like a good one when mitigated by a solid EAI vendor with adapters for each of the selected best of breed components – call center/CRM, order management, inventory management and financials. Despite some hard-core coding and customization of the adapters and some messaging and queuing debugging, the architecture worked well.

I think that the idea of connecting individual applications to a messaging or integration backbone could be applied to the cloud computing integration problem.  Let’s call it Cloud Integration Architecture (CIA).

Cloud Integration Architecture

ADP’s CIO Mike Capone and Chief Strategy Officer Jan Siegmund describe the importance of integration in both public and private clouds in their in-depth interview for PwC’s Technology Forecast on cloud computing.  For organizations who want to leverage as much in the cloud as possible, do they really want to perform the integration internally? While that is the reality today, there’s no reason that the integration function can’t be cloud based too.

The key integration points that a cloud integration architecture service would have to address are:

  • User Interface Integration – aggregates and/or abstract cloud app provider UI APIs to help provide a consistent, customizable and modular UI,
  • Data Integration – allows an enterprise to merge, purge and augment similar datasets from multiple cloud app vendors,and
  • Function Integration – the most complex integration, involves gluing cloud APIs together into some kind of workflow or orchestration-like service.

What do you think?  Would you consider using a cloud application integration service? Or, would you build your own?

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  • mkaush

    This is the same concept as a VAN (Value Added Network); more open, more advanced capabilities and using new technologies.

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  • http://twitter.com/chrisonea Chris Lockhart

    I think it presupposes everything in the “Extensible Enterprise” bubble has it’s EntArch stuff together. Specifically a well oiled capabilities machine whereby the internal services being touched by the cloud integration service are well known, well understood and well mapped to business purpose and value. I can see the danger for some folks who don’t have these things in gear wherein they see this model as a silver bullet of cloud integration hitting a silver bullet of -as a Service with no effort needed on their part.

  • Roger Sessions

    I believe that some kind of cloud integration architecture is important, although what this might look like is still speculative. One problem is that it is hard to integrate cloud apps unless the apps themselves are architected for integration. This is a similar problem to what we encountered in the early days of SOA. People thought that SOA would magically integrate applications together, not understanding that SOA requires significant changes to the architecture of the applications. Today we have a lot of focus on the cloud as a platform and very little focus on the architectural requirements of apps to take advantage of that platform. 

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