Hybrid integration platforms (HIPs) are becoming increasingly attractive by the day owing to proven benefits such as lower IT infrastructure costs, accelerated time to market, and improved reliability.
Selecting the right platform will make or break an organization’s ability to build better digital experiences and respond faster to evolving business requirements. Continue reading to learn more about the key capabilities, features, and business requirements you should look for when evaluating a HIP.
One of the key aspects of a HIP is the ability to integrate different applications to work together to deliver business functionality. In layman's terms, the platform should provide capabilities such as:
These are integral parts of a traditional ESB.
This key capability pre-dates concepts such as SOA and comprises an integration middleware’s message routing capabilities, with the added assurance of reliable delivery. Enterprise-grade conventional message brokering solutions such as IBM MQ, RabbitMQ and more recent streaming messaging solutions such as Kafka try to solve the need for a MoM in the integration space. With the advent of cloud services like Amazon MQ and Azure Service Bus, messaging solutions have become an essential part of cloud offerings.
The HIP you select should be able to seamlessly integrate with the messaging solutions you choose without hassle.
Data is an integral part of a digital enterprise. IDC predicts that in the year 2025, 49% of the world’s stored data will reside in public cloud environments. To be future proof, enterprises should look for a HIP that is capable of handling data at rest and in transit, in the cloud and on-premises.
The capability to securely store, retrieve and transfer data between different database systems, SaaS applications, legacy systems, and on-premises systems using different data formats is a must-have capability for a HIP. For instance, support for different data formats such as CSV, raw data, JSON, EDI, EDIFact, and FIX shows how the platform can handle different types of data in transit. Support for RDBMS databases such as MySQL, Oracle DB, MS SQL, DB2 and key-value databases like MongoDB and Cassandra shows the capabilities of a HIP that handles data at rest.
According to IDC Data Age 2025, by the year 2025, real-time data will be 30% of the total data creation in the world compared to 15% in the year 2017.
This speaks for the growth of real-time streaming data generated from different devices and systems. Streaming integration is all about integrating streams of data generated from different event sources. The HIP should ideally provide the functionality to process streams of data in real-time.
Managed file transfer (MFT) refers to a secure and efficient transfer of data from one system to another. This can be between cloud instances, on-premises instances, or cloud and on-premises instances. MFT solutions come in as on-premises software as well as SaaS solutions. Having this capability within the HIP itself reduces the added cost of integrating a separate tool in terms of time and money.
Business to business software integration primarily includes interconnecting systems across organizational boundaries. There are two types of B2B integrations:
Data exchange - Technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), EDIFact, and XML-based protocols such as FIX play a key role in B2B integrations.
Business process management - A workflow management system to handle business processes between business partners with and without human intervention.
Owing to the growing adoption of cloud infrastructure, we see a significant increase in enterprise-grade Software as a Service (SaaS) providers for B2B integrations.
Hence, when selecting a future-proof HIP, we must look for the platform’s SaaS integration capabilities. Most HIP’s provide these SaaS integration capabilities by way of connectors that can be downloaded from an online connector store or using their development tools. These capabilities can vary from each integration with Google docs, the Microsoft 365 platform to the likes of Salesforce and cloud CRM systems.
According to Akamai, the world's leading content delivery network (CDN) provider, in 2019, 83% of their traffic came through APIs in contrast to HTML traffic. In 2014, their API traffic accounted for 47%. This speaks for the adoption of APIs throughout the world.
Moving ahead with a proper full lifecycle API management solution that works well with your middleware solutions is better than the best-in-class, standalone API management solution.
Exposing secured APIs to consumers with proper privileges outside the firewall is a key requirement of a HIP. Those consumers can be other business processes, mobile devices, IoT devices, and third-party user interfaces. With full lifecycle API management, you will be able to publish, promote, version, secure, and manage the usage of APIs. In addition, there are capabilities such as rate-limiting, caching, tracking, and analytics that come with these types of API management solutions. You can read more about this in What is Full Life Cycle API Management.
To lower staffing and infrastructure costs and to reap the benefits of cloud computing, many organizations are moving to the cloud. To cater to this market segment, integration vendors provided their software hosted on the cloud. However, to benefit from cloud computing and microservices architecture, this software should be much leaner and lightweight. Moreover, these integration solutions need support for deployment automation, scaling, containerized applications, and CI/CD workflows.
Gartner predicts that
To be future proof and to serve ever-changing business needs, it is important to select an integration vendor with a better cloud-first integration strategy.
With the current market downturn, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and time to market (TTM) have become important aspects of any business undertaking. Development teams have to cope with dynamic business requirements within limited budgets. It is important for these teams to incorporate the right agile development practices while benefiting from cheaper cloud computing resources. The HIP should provide developer toolkits, which support CICD workflows, and better integration with cloud-native technologies.
Integration vendors develop their software with various software licensing terms and conditions. It is always prudent to read closely and avoid high licensing costs in the long run owing to an oversight.
In addition, we need to consider vendor lock-in. Once committed to the project, organizations find it difficult to move away from the vendor owing to the tight coupling of an organization’s systems to the vendor platform. This is a common criticism we see with leading cloud vendors such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Relying on open-source technologies is a common resolution to avoid vendor lock-in. A recent Forbes article “Four Ways To Avoid Vendor Lock-In When Moving To The Public Cloud” discusses this in detail.
A strategy that enterprises use to avoid vendor lock-in, while benefiting from deployments in major cloud services, is deploying an open-source hybrid integration platform on top of the cloud vendor’s IT infrastructure. The cloud vendor’s proprietary protocols and services are handled through the HIP, drastically reducing the cost of moving to another cloud vendor. In addition, this opens up future options for expanding into multi-cloud deployments.
One key criterion that we often overlook when selecting a vendor is their partner network and the quality of their consultants and supporting services. These aspects play a vital role throughout the lifespan of a project, from its inception to maintaining the system once it goes live.
This is not an exhaustive list of items that you need to look for in a HIP, rather it is a guide with key aspects. We hope this will help you to select the most-suitable hybrid integration platform, which, in turn, will help to build modern and future-proof digital experiences.