How to Attain Cloud Nirvana, One Integration Step at a Time

1 - How to Attain Cloud Nirvana, One Integration Step at a Time
2 - New Cloud, Old Challenges
3 - Know Your Cloud Vendor's Integration Options Before You Buy
4 - Create an Integration Strategy for Cloud
5 - Consider Data Sensitivity and Cloud Security Before You Integrate
6 - You Have More Integration Options Than You Think
7 - Be Honest About Your Integration Skills and Resources
8 - You Will Outgrow Your Vendor's Native Integration
9 - Avoid the 'Big Bang' Approach
10 - Plan on Some Custom Code
11 - Cloud Doesn't Make Everything Easy
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How to Attain Cloud Nirvana, One Integration Step at a Time

by Chris Preimesberger

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New Cloud, Old Challenges

Despite Forrester's prediction that cloud computing will grow to $72 billion this year, integration remains a major obstacle to cloud productivity, cost benefits and overall growth. An Oracle-commissioned study found that 64 percent of respondents were unable to integrate cloud solutions with other business applications, and 54 percent reported experiencing staff downtime due to cloud integration issues.

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Know Your Cloud Vendor's Integration Options Before You Buy

Even if you don't plan on integrating your application today, it is highly likely you will need to access, move or manipulate your cloud data at some point in the future. To save trouble down the line, evaluate what your vendor offers for data access, as well as the solution's limitations today. If your vendor has an API, make sure you understand the objects the API exposes, the methods the API allows you to perform with the data and any limitations the vendor may impose on the API.

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Create an Integration Strategy for Cloud

Any business, from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, will probably use at least two cloud applications in the future. Because a single SaaS vendor typically won't offer a tool set that fits all of your integration requirements, you need a strategy to integrate cloud applications into your business for consistency, control and maintainability.

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Consider Data Sensitivity and Cloud Security Before You Integrate

Whether data lives in the cloud or on-premise, issues of privacy, security and data management still need to be considered before you integrate. Check your cloud vendor's security and privacy settings to ensure that you can keep the data as safe and secure as the source system; review reporting and data export permissions to avoid accidental cloud data leakage.

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You Have More Integration Options Than You Think

When people talk about integration, they're typically referring to actions, such as synchronizing and updating data or copying data from one place to another. With cloud, you have more integration variety, so you should evaluate options like data presentation to save on costly cloud storage fees, or Web services for lookups, validation and data augmentation.

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Be Honest About Your Integration Skills and Resources

It's easy to get caught up in the dream of full system integration across the business, but most companies have finite resources and priorities. Consider your time, expertise and resources for cloud application integration against what you need to run your business. Do you really have the time/expertise to custom code against various APIs?

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You Will Outgrow Your Vendor's Native Integration

Many cloud vendors offer native or seamless integration with popular companies such as Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle. Some even offer the ability to configure or customize integrations out of the box, but these integrations are typically built for a common workflow or business process rather than unique needs. Plan to eventually add another integration approach to enhance and complement your cloud vendor's pre-built integration.

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Avoid the 'Big Bang' Approach

After you implement your cloud application, it's easy to get excited about all the systems you can integrate and how you can leverage that cloud vendor in all of your business processes. Large-scale, overly ambitious integration projects have a high risk of failure or fading away. Layer and iterate your integration strategy, especially with cloud applications, so you don't get ugly surprises with undocumented API issues or other roadblocks.

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Plan on Some Custom Code

Cloud vendors understand the importance of out-of-the-box integration with other business applications, but this integration often won't fit your exact business needs. Third-party integration platforms also won't cover every conceivable integration scenario with connectors or pre-built mappings. Custom Web services—creating custom integration services for line-of-business users or including pre-or post-processing with your integration—may require custom coding.

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Cloud Doesn't Make Everything Easy

There is a lot of hype going around with the cloud. It certainly does make many things easier, faster and more cost-effective, but cloud applications add nuances to your integration planning and execution that should not be underestimated.

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