Salesforce.com Integration to Increase Business
An early pioneer of cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), Salesforce.com’s popular CRM products are widely used to manage and facilitate sales, support services and other customer interactions. Valuable enterprise data, however, quickly builds up in a “cloud silo" without an effective strategy for integrating Salesforce.com offerings with legacy CRM applications, ERP solutions and back-end databases.
For Salesforce.com products to truly add business value to the enterprise, integration is thus crucial. The increasing shift toward hybrid architectures, moreover, means that integration solutions must be able to seamlessly connect Salesforce.com with other SaaS applications and on-premise legacy systems.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a few approaches to integrating Salesforce.com with the enterprise.
When SaaS applications first became popular, applications integration was often treated as an afterthought. With few SaaS integration tools available, enterprises resorted to custom hand coding by in-house IT teams to connect Salesforce.com with legacy applications and systems.
The advantage of such a DIY approach is that integrations are tailored to specific use cases, with developers writing customized connectors using the Salesforce.com API. For example, hand-coded solutions can be utilized to synchronize data between Salesforce.com and databases residing on-premise, or to create mashups using RightNow integration or SuccessFactors integration.
Hand coding, however, has a number of drawbacks:
- It is time-consuming and costly. In-house developers can end up spending a significant amount of time writing custom code for a Salesforce.com integration project. This means that other IT projects receive less attention and budgets can skyrocket, especially if external consultants are involved.
- It requires technical expertise. Because hand-coded integrations require specialized skills, business analysts must rely on developers to build integrations from scratch in order to successfully align IT systems with business processes. Code errors and general maintenance also require the involvement of highly skilled IT professionals, slowing down deployment times.
- It doesn’t scale well. Hand-coding might make sense for simple architectures where only two or three systems need to be integrated, but such architectures will likely grow and evolve as business needs change. The procurement of a new system or SaaS application means more hand-coding is needed to connect each of these additions to Salesforce.com and to each other in a point-to-point fashion. In the long run, this is unsustainable for high growth businesses.
- It contributes to system volatility. Since maintenance and upgrades for SaaS applications are typically handled by the service provider, hand-coded integrations may stop running properly as new versions of Salesforce.com are rolled out. This can lead to system errors, disrupting mission-critical business activities that depend on real-time integrations.
Integrating with Tools from Salesforce.com
Salesforce.com offers integration solutions from third party integration providers in addition to a native, cloud-based application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) called Force.com. At first glance, these tools seem like a viable alternative to hand coding, but they also have several disadvantages.
Through AppExchange, Salesforce.com offers a variety of pre-built integrations and applications from partner companies. These out-of-the-box solutions might reduce the amount of time and financial resources needed for hand coding, but they can be difficult to modify and customize due to their black box nature and lack of visibility and monitoring capabilities.
The Force.com platform allows developers to build new applications and integrate Salesforce.com with existing ones using the platform’s APIs. Because Force.com is an aPaaS geared towards developing new applications, this means that integration is a capability but not the main use of the platform. Moreover, while the platform makes it easy to extend and customize Salesforce.com applications for existing users, it leads to vendor lock-in and limits users from integrating freely across different systems and platforms.
CloudHub: Integration for the Cloud Era
The limitations of existing SaaS integration tools has paved the way for CloudHub, a cloud-based integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), to emerge as the go-to integration solution for the cloud era. With a library of Anypoint™ Connectors, CloudHub makes it easy to integrate with Salesforce.com through configuration--not coding--in addition to other SaaS offerings, cloud services, social media platforms and on-premise applications.
CloudHub includes other features that set it apart from other integration solutions:
- Integration Apps: Integration apps are packaged integration that are built on and shared over CloudHub. This makes it possible for developers to write custom Salesforce.com integrations for specific use cases that are then made accessible to non-technical users. In other words, CloudHub is simple enough for business analysts to use, with pre-built integrations and drag-and-drop tools, but also open and flexible enough for developers to modify and customize integrations. Since CloudHub offers tested and reliable connectors, enterprises don’t need to worry about the maintenance and upgrades required by custom point-to-point integrations.
- Secure Data Gateway: CloudHub’s Secure Data Gateway enables developers to integrate and orchestrate Salesforce.com applications with on-premise legacy systems in a simple and secure fashion without custom coding. This eliminates the “cloud silo” created by deploying Salesforce.com and other SaaS applications.
- Monitoring and Visibility: Existing SaaS integration solutions lack rich monitoring and management capabilities. CloudHub comes with a browser-based management portal that enables users to monitor uptime and performance with deep visibility into flows, messages, and other services.
- Open Platform: CloudHub allows users to easily migrate applications and systems on and off with open standards, allowing you integrate everything: SaaS, enterprise applications, social media platforms and more. Unlike platforms that are provided by SaaS vendors, CloudHub isn’t tied to any one particular SaaS application, allowing you to build integrations that do more than just extend Salesforce.com.
- Cloud Features: As a cloud-based platform, CloudHub includes classic cloud features including multi-tenancy for enterprise security and isolation, elasticity and scalability, self-service provisioning, and a cost-effective pay-as-you grow pricing model.