Lessons from Cloud Adopters: Cloud-to-Cloud Integration Is a Challenge

A recent report from cloud solution provider Appirio confirms what many IT people have long known, even feared: cloud-to-cloud integration is a major headache for cloud adopters.

Appirio’s “State of the Public Cloud: The Cloud Adopters’ Perspective,” found that more than 75 percent of respondents consider cloud-to-cloud integration a priority, but that only 4 percent “had fully integrated their cloud applications.”

The report was based on a survey of 155 IT decision-makers at mid- to large-sized North American companies that have adopted at least one software-as-a-service (SaaS) or public cloud application.

Another key finding was that most cloud adopters prefer cloud solutions over on-premise applications when it comes to availability, costs and time to value; and they are eager to expand their cloud strategies.

The key findings of Appirio’s report dovetail with findings of a recent Gartner study on companies transitioning to SaaS and how it was working out for them. It found that many businesses were actually pulling their data back out of cloud-based applications and asked them why.

Gartner asked 270 executives, “Why is your organization currently transitioning from a SaaS solution to an on-premises solution?” For 56 percent of respondents, the number one reason they gave for transitioning back to on-premises solutions was the unexpectedly significant requirements of integration.

More than half of the people who tried moving their business to a cloud-based application and pulled back did so because integrating those applications with the rest of their businesses proved too challenging to make it worthwhile.

Gartner has predicted that at least 35 percent of all large and midsize organizations worldwide will be using one or more iPaaS (integration platform as a service) offerings by 2015.

What Early Cloud Adopters Can Teach Cloud Prospectors

Aside from drawing needed attention to the experiences and challenges of current cloud users, the Appirio report clearly has implications for prospective cloud adopters, said Ross Mason, founder and CTO of MuleSoft, which has an iPaaS offering.

For enterprises who have yet to take the plunge, what can be learned from these cloud adoption “pioneers?”

“First and foremost, these pioneers generally agree that the issues that tended to preclude cloud adoption in the first place, such as security and vendor-lock-in, are unfounded,” said Mason. “This is comforting news for enterprises who are considering cloud strategies for the first time (but have cold feet) and a win for cloud computing in general.”

This is not to say, however, that companies should jump into the cloud blindly, he added.

The statistics on integration cited above represent real challenges for cloud users and should prompt prospective cloud users to begin thinking about integration strategies before procuring their first SaaS, said Mason.

He believes that by approaching cloud integration from a holistic and strategic perspective rather than as a tactical afterthought, enterprises will be better able to tackle integration challenges when they move to the cloud.

“With enough foresight and planning, connecting cloud to cloud, and cloud to enterprise doesn’t have to be difficult,” Mason said.

Current cloud users, meanwhile, can close the gap between their integration goals on the one hand, and existing architectures on the other, by using the right tools, such as iPaaS.

Mason said iPaaS has recently emerged as a standalone cloud-based platform for integrating applications.

“In addition to connecting SaaS to SaaS, iPaaS can also connect the cloud to the enterprise, making it possible to seamlessly share data and processes no matter where the source and target systems reside,” said Mason.

“The growth in the number and use of SaaS applications creates new integration challenges,” he added.

“Each SaaS application is a silo of data and/or functionality that requires an integration solution,” said Mason. “The fact that SaaS applications are so easy to consume means that we get even more fragmentation across departments in a single company, which means more integration points.”

The solution to cloud integration challenges could be iPaaS, said Mason, whose company MuleSoft recently went live with its public beta of Mule iON, a cloud-based iPaaS.

Mason said Mule iON is the first iPaaS to address the challenge of integrating SaaS applications in the cloud with on-premise systems.

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