Cloud Integration: the benefits and challenges in business
Figuring out the most efficient ways of handling big data and data-related procedures is one of the most important questions in business today. One promising and already very helpful solution is provided by the developments in cloud computing. Keeping data in the cloud instead of local databases has saved many businesses a lot of trouble and resources. However, when we utilize the cloud along with other systems and platforms, we face questions and challenges of cloud integration. Let us look at how these challenges can be met to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs of integration.
What is Cloud Integration?
Cloud integration is the act of combining different cloud-based systems into an integral whole. The term may also refer to joining cloud-based systems with on-premises systems. The ultimate goal is to connect the disparate elements of various cloud and local resources into a single, ubiquitous environment that allows administrators to seamlessly access and manage applications, data, services, and systems.
The rise of public cloud computing has enabled enterprises to use a wide assortment of highly scalable resources and services on demand rather than constructing and maintaining them in-house. However, in some organizations, the arrival of these diverse resources and services has created IT silos as administrators struggle to manage and maintain each different cloud resource or data set. Without cloud integration, IT administrators need to perform each integration task separately and manually — a process that is time-consuming and increases the opportunity for error.
Why use Cloud Integration?
Cloud integration solutions were created to break down data silos, improve connectivity and visibility, and ultimately optimize business processes. Data integration tools are a response to the need to share data among cloud-based applications and unify information components.
It has grown in popularity as the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions continues to increase. Studies have indicated that more than 90 percent of enterprises employ a multi-cloud strategy, and SaaS usage will soon outpace traditional product delivery.
Additionally, more businesses are operating with a hybrid mix of SaaS and on-premises applications, creating a greater need for progressive cloud data integration methods.
How does it work?
Cloud integration applications break down data silos and improve dataset interaction to provide businesses with a comprehensive data view. The integration process enables you to unify business data and develop service-level agreements (SLAs) to govern the new database.
Organizations can either use mediation or federation to integrate cloud applications. Cloud integration systems leveraging mediation identify an application event, trigger a response, and connect to another application. Federation enables applications to process triggers and respond from outside of connected applications.
Cloud integration can function synchronously or asynchronously depending on the communication happening between applications. Synchronous cloud integration waits for a response from a receiving application and guarantees application synchronization before continuing. Asynchronous cloud integration doesn’t wait for an answer from a receiving application to communicate data. This instant communication prevents unnecessary data delays.
Cloud integration systems use adapters or connectors as software modules to interact with apps and manage security and authentication. While connectors handle communication and notifications, adapters make room for applications you integrate. Common uses of vendor-neutral connectors include simple object access protocol (SOAP), APIs, Java connector architecture (JCA), and simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) exchanges.
Benefits of Cloud Integration
Silos are problematic for small businesses — if marketing teams are using one set of applications and data, while product development, production, and HR teams are using another, the results can range from mismatched business objectives that limit ROI to duplicated work that reduces total efficiency.
Cloud integration platforms offer a way to connect disparate applications and departments, making it possible for teams to leverage and collaborate on the same data in real-time.
Companies also benefit from increased visibility when using cloud integration platforms. By unifying application environments under a single solution, IT teams can easily see what’s happening, when, and why. As a result, companies are better prepared to deal with application conflicts or team requirements as they arise, rather than after the fact.
Enhanced Cost Control
Cloud applications left unchecked and unmonitored come with significant costs over time, especially if they’re continually collecting or using data. Cloud integration makes it possible for businesses to see what’s running on their network and evaluate how often applications are used, allowing them to better manage and monitor overall technology costs.
Types of Cloud Integration
It would include cloud-to-cloud integration, cloud-to-on-premises integration, or a combination of both. Further, cloud integration solutions address different business components, including data and applications. And IT teams can leverage the listed below types of cloud integrations, depending on the data transfer volume and speed;
- Cloud Data Integration: Enables seamless data flow between different repositories. It involves processing, transferring, and transforming information in batches, or real-time during integration. Businesses typically leverage data integration to transfer raw, unstructured cloud data for specific use cases. However, IT teams can also centralize cloud data with mainframe system data or legacy servers.
Examples include business analytics, master data management, artificial intelligence training, and ELT (extracting, loading, and transforming) raw data into a data lake or data warehouse. Data integration tools are designed to perform activities such as data cleansing, data quality checking, masking, and batch processing.
- Cloud Application Integration: Unites numerous applications and ensures continued interoperability and functionality. It involves applications sharing requests, commands, and other mechanisms to trigger business activities. This process facilitates data exchange using real-time dataset integrations between the systems involved.
Common examples include integrating critical business apps such as inventory management, sales reporting, customer relationship management, and financial applications. It helps businesses optimize their workflows, build insight-driven data models, predict future demand with machine learning models, and modernize their infrastructure.
The Challenges of Cloud Integration
As we have learned so far, cloud integration allows its users to have a great deal of flexibility but it comes with a few challenges. These challenges mainly originate from the lack of standardization.
To incorporate cloud services, there is no universal or common solution. Different programs, tools, and utilities often use different connectivity mechanisms, making it difficult to build and manage the connectors required to communicate with the different cloud and local environment components. Software upgrades and patches can modify the way certain programs interact and may entail time-consuming updates to the connector. A cloud integration initiative may be disrupted by additional problems. As integrations may be complicated, technological skills and, in some situations, dedicated personnel are required to handle them.
Deciding what direction to take with your cloud integration is a major decision. Knowing what best suits your cloud-related needs takes time and consideration of multiple factors. And it is worth remembering that the solution that best suits you today may not be the one that suits you in two years. Look at examples of best use cases to help inform any decision.
Before making any decision, consider where your company may be in a few years. How much change will there be in your needs for cloud storage or the use of XaaS? Making the wrong decision in terms of ongoing timeframes may prove costly later. Chief information officers (CIOs) should be taking the lead in any decisions being made.