What is Cloud Integration?

  • By Kavishka Fernando
  • 15 Dec, 2021

In the past, a single vendor was expected to develop all the software needed for an organization. But with the world moving rapidly and constantly introducing new software, systems, applications and platforms, this time has now passed.

As organizations started to require multiple vendors, the need for those companies to communicate with each other was important, leading to the necessity for integration. Integration typically involves data format translation, API chaining, message routing, filtering, and event-driven programming. For example, enterprise integration patterns identify common integration scenarios as patterns. 

We can implement integration using code, but it is not an ideal solution as most programming languages are not built for integration, which requires API calls, data mapping, and JSON handling, among other features. An integration platform that has first-class support for integrations can save both time and effort. These tools include Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), programming languages such as Ballerina, and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS).

One of the biggest developments in digital business has been the migration of applications to the cloud from traditional on-premise processes. Organizations started moving to the cloud since it provides many opportunities for collaboration. By doing this, there was a reduction in the total cost of ownership and organizations were able to offer software as application programming interfaces (APIs) or SaaS. The resulting API Economy came into play where organizations began earning revenue by selling their APIs. Although organizations started migrating to the cloud, the integration issues still existed, therefore Cloud Integration was an avenue to solve these problems. 

Cloud integration and cloud data integration solutions have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for enterprises looking to integrate various systems.

What is Cloud Integration?

Cloud Integration is a process that integrates diverse systems, applications, repositories, and IT environments enabling real-time exchange of data and processes. Simply, it means bringing multiple cloud environments together - either in a hybrid deployment or as multiple public clouds, allowing them to function as a single, cohesive IT infrastructure. With the completion of cloud integration, you will be able to implement business process automation and provide services for commercial or internal use. Cloud integration was created to limit data silos and provide flexibility in order to optimize business processes.

There are several choices for implementing cloud integration,

1. Integration running as a managed service

2. Integration running as an IPaaS

3. Serverless with custom code

You can read more about these approaches in our article “How to Build a Production-Grade API — Kubernetes Serverless, or iPaaS?

As we move towards future technologies, more businesses are using a hybrid of SaaS and physical applications. Cloud integration platforms use adapters or connectors to communicate with stand-alone business applications.

What is Hybrid Integration?

While we know that the world is migrating to the cloud, this transition does not occur overnight. Data and processes still exist on local servers, private, and public clouds, and places in-between. This is where hybrid integration comes in. The capacity to integrate data, applications, and business partners across cloud and on-premises systems is referred to as hybrid integration. The navigation from on-premises to the cloud can be an expensive and lengthy process, hence companies approach this transition in a measured fashion, causing most companies to operate in the hybrid world for the foreseeable future. This implies that businesses that are not totally modernized yet, may begin to act like they are - innovative, agile, and connected.

Why Implement Cloud Integration?

Cloud Integration was developed to optimize the processes related to businesses and help resolve the challenges regarding data silos. This improves connectivity, functionality, visibility, and access.

Cloud Integration is becoming more common as the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions grows. The ultimate goal of Cloud Integration is to connect various components of cloud and local resources into a common, omnipresent ecosystem which will facilitate administrators to control and access data, services, systems, and software seamlessly. 

Cloud Integration Types and Methods

Cloud integration might entail developing cloud-to-cloud integration, cloud-to-on-premises integration, or a hybrid of the two. Let’s view the two main types of cloud integrations.

  1. Data integration

Users may have data distributed across several repositories which can be cloud services or in physical locations. Through data integration, it is possible to accomplish synchronization between repositories across all users in real-time. During the process of data integration, data can be transported, processed or transformed. For example, in the healthcare industry, having patient data during treatment is crucial. If this data is spread across multiple systems it has potential to compromise patient care. Integrating all patient data helps healthcare providers make informed, and accurate decisions.

  1. Application integration

Application integration connects numerous applications, ensuring they continue to work and share data and information. Application integration consists of sending out requests and commands to start business events or processes. Cross-cloud compatibility has helped form the Cloud API environment. Administrators can now integrate apps and other workloads into the cloud using these APIs. For example, in the banking industry, by integrating customer accounts, loan applications services, and other services with their mobile application, a bank can provide multiple services to customers through a new digital channel.

With a suitable cloud integration platform, organizations can easily perform application and data integration using a scalable and agile solution.

Benefits of Cloud Integration Solutions

  1. Improve operational efficiency

Since cloud integration integrates all components, your business processes will be much smoother, resulting in better communication, which increases the efficiency and productivity of the organization. Efficient cloud integrations allow your team to focus on new initiatives and improve customer experiences.

  1. Increases flexibility and scalability

With cloud integration, developers can adjust processes for various projects and facilitate expansion and growth into projects.

  1. Get products to market faster

Companies can speed up if it has a fully cloud-integrated system. By overcoming the communication challenges in a siloed system, an integrated system reduces failures and allows you to deliver to end customers much faster.

  1. Improves internal communication and enhance collaboration

As mentioned previously, cloud integration flows can overcome communication issues caused by data silos. Internal communication within different teams of the company will increase. Teams will be able to collaborate in real-time. Customers benefit from improved communication within your firm. And an organization with efficient procedures has a better chance of providing pleasant customer experiences and retaining customers too.

  1. Reduction in operational costs 

By moving a majority of your applications and data to the cloud and increasing your use of SaaS, organizations can cut capital investment and operational expenditures. Due to benefits in efficiency, it can lead to an increase in revenue as well.

  1. Increase the competitive edge

By simplifying processes through cloud integration, companies can deliver better service and gain a competitive advantage.

  1. System reliability

If cloud integration is done properly, it can provide higher reliability through improved efficiency, security, and backups.

Challenges of Cloud Integration Solutions

While cloud integration allows its users to have a great deal of flexibility, it presents challenges as well. Let’s observe what these are, and how we can mitigate these issues early to facilitate a seamless cloud integration.

  1. Security

Most companies fail to follow security policies recommended for cloud computing.If implemented properly, cloud security can be more powerful than on-site security. This is because, although on-premises setups can keep data secure with high efficiency from the start, as a cloud system learns your network and grows with you, it can become more secure in the long-term. Appropriate methods of data recovery and backup, data encryption methods to secure data and user authentication levels should be followed to build up a strong cloud-based security system.

  1. Latency

Cloud integration provides the flexibility and scalability that your business needs to improve. Networks can be overloaded due to data packets transmitted over a remote connection and cause latency-related issues that might affect any running data workloads. Installing data compression applications that compress data before transmission can perform wonders for latency issues. Companies should build up a cloud integration system that will perform well, even with a limited number of network resources.

  1. Architecture

A well-designed cloud integration system that satisfies your business integration needs is crucial. There are 3 possible options for this, including:

  1. Public Cloud Computing- Public cloud computing services can be easily obtained and are available to the general public, in which the data is created and stored on third-party serve
  2. Private Cloud Computing - Private cloud computing is when a specific company owns a private cloud. This is also called an internal or corporate model.
  3. Hybrid Cloud Computing - Hybrid Cloud Computing is a combination of the best features of public, private, and community deployment models. Critical activities are performed using the private cloud while non-critical activities are performed using the public cloud.

Some large businesses go with the multi-cloud strategy which facilitates the use of multiple cloud platforms for different uses. A single service can be used for cloud computing, another for data storage, and a third for SaaS applications.

  1. Data governance

Cloud integration is performed for systems that process large amounts of data. To ensure your data remains of high quality, organizations need to implement a strong data management policy.

Cloud Integration Tools and Platforms

Cloud Integration platforms can connect various cloud-based applications together to simplify business processes. There are several considerations when selecting a cloud integration tool or platform for your business. Let’s have a look at a few key features to keep in mind.

  • Admin functions: These include designing, connectors, managing workflows, data transformation, and managing user communities.
  • Run time capabilities: Features include real-time integration capabilities, data chunking, monitoring, data masking, and parallel processing.
  • Integration tasks: Functions include data virtualization, big data processing, master data management, data lifecycle management, message functions, and managed file transfers.
  • Platform functions: Popular functions such as testing, APIs, customization, compatibility, performance, security, and reliability are common here.
  • Low-code: Functions includeend to end Low-code and code-based programming environments for developing, debugging, and testing integration processes.

Listed below are some of the leading cloud integration platforms and a brief description of each.

1. Dell Boomi - Allows users to design cloud-based integration processes. Users can access data between the cloud and physical premises.

2. IBM App Connect - Admins can design and automate workflows that define how data is moved from one system to another.

3. Mulesoft Anypoint Platform - Provides a variety of tools for developing, testing, and managing APIs.

4. Zapier - Provides many connectors, and predefined workflow templates that users can use to automate business processes. 

5. Jitterbit - Jitterbit lets you fuse thousands of SaaS, on-premise, and cloud apps into one interface. You can use pre-built templates and workflows or create custom APIs from existing enterprise applications.

In addition, WSO2 has its own option, Choreo - This platform provides end-to-end development of integration solutions starting from the solutions architecture phase, to development, testing, and deployment. It provides many connectors, prebuilt integrations, and allows users to create personalized services, APIs, and integrations to automate complex workflows.

Takeaway

An organization can use cloud integration to unify services and systems. Cloud integration requires careful planning, thus selecting the most suitable direction for your cloud integration path involves analysis and consideration of multiple factors. The final goal of cloud integration is to improve cooperation among teams within a business organization, not just optimizing infrastructure, or scaling up resources. We recommend that you select a future-proof solution that will be applicable for your business even a few years post-implementation. Adopting cloud integration within a business empowers companies to use a flexible and agile approach for both data and application integration.

Photo by sortino.

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