Cloud Silos and Integration 

As more and more enterprises turn to the cloud for business applications and systems, new IT challenges emerge along with the advantages that come with using web-based solutions. One of these challenges is the proliferation of cloud silos across the enterprise. This article examines the problem of cloud silos more closely and explores different approaches to cloud integration as a solution.

The Problem: Cloud Silos

In enterprise systems, information silos emerge when processes and data are kept in separate servers or data centers and are unable to to interact with other systems. Data centers grow in size with the deployment of each new application, minimizing resource utilization and reducing the overall efficiency of the enterprise.

Silos are nothing new to IT administrators and developers who have tackled on-premises enterprise application integration (EAI) projects over the past decade. The increasing adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and other cloud offerings means that silos are once again becoming a problem, resulting in the fragmentation of processes and data. This time, however, the silos are not on-premises, but in the cloud.

Cloud silos are especially prone to proliferation due to the service-based delivery of cloud services, which makes it easier for enterprises to procure and deploy new applications. Enterprises can sign up for a SaaS application with the swipe of a credit card, often without giving much thought to data synchronization. The flexibility and elasticity of Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings make them attractive to developers building new business applications, but the tendency to use them without consideration of how they will share information with existing legacy applications counteracts the benefits of using such cloud services in the first place.

The emergence of social media and web-based social applications, moreover, means that non-IT personnel such as marketing and communications departments feel pressure to take advantage of cloud-based services, but are less likely to consider issues such as data sharing, security, and integration. The fact that there are more applications overall and that there are different vendors for different kids of web-based applications only further contributes to the problem of cloud silos and “SaaS sprawl.”

While these scenarios might be prevented by making sure that IT decisions are made based on how the enterprise as a whole can benefit from a particular cloud offering (and not just one department or group), they cannot always be avoided. Cloud silos, however, diminish the ability of an enterprise to conduct its day-to-day business if left unaddressed. What is needed is an overall strategy to tackle this problem: cloud integration.

The Solution: Cloud Integration

Although cloud silos and integration are familiar problems for IT administrators and developers, they also possess qualities that distinguish them from traditional silos and EAI. As MuleSoft founder and CTO Ross Mason points out, “the tenets of the problem [have] changed.” In particular, cloud-based applications and systems are communicating over HTTP using SOAP and REST, which places certain limits on the kinds of solutions used to address cloud silos. In addition, the large number of vendors in the cloud computing market means that there is a wide range in the degree of attention paid to issues such as security, identity management, repudiation, visibility, and control, further complicating the problem of cloud silos and integration.

In the past, IT administrators and developers addressed information silos and EAI through tactical point-to-point approaches that typically required teams of experts and specialists who understood the underlying frameworks of each individual application in order to integrate them with other applications in the enterprise. This time-consuming and tedious approach, however, undermines the benefits of cloud computing, namely, flexibility, ease of use, and autonomy from IT experts. As Ross Mason further points out, point-to-point integration doesn’t scale well and its black box nature results in limited capabilities for effectively taking on cloud silos and integration.

Enterprises that are concerned with cloud silos and integration need solutions that are low-cost, efficient and manageable (with reusable configurations), and intuitive and user-friendly, even to users with limited technical expertise. Moreover, the move by enterprises toward Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) means that integration solutions should also facilitate the reuse and orchestration of services and data.

CloudHub, an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), meets this need by offering a robust and flexible integration solution capable of handling different integration scenarios. As a cloud-based integration platform, CloudHub is event-driven, processing operation data and firing events in realtime (or close to realtime). Based on the technology of Mule ESB, an enterprise service bus, CloudHub  is capable of integrating data and applications from multiple sources, whether it is on-premises or in the cloud. Moreover, CloudHub offers developers flexibility by allowing them to modify code if necessary while still being simple to use for those who are less technically inclined.

As enterprises continue to add SaaS applications and other cloud offerings to their portfolio, they will undoubtedly encounter the challenges of cloud silos and integration. With CloudHub, they will be ready to meet that challenge with flexibility and ease.

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