Navigating the Promise and Pitfalls of Systems Integration
Author: Hilal Khan
The cost savings, data visibility, and increased time-to-market associated with best practices in application integration is well-known. And yet, enterprises continue to trip up in their integration efforts, sometimes resulting in inflexible and brittle systems rife with redundancy.
A successful integration requires finesse in analysis, design, and execution paired with incredible attention to detail. And there’s no shortage of details. To avoid some of the most common mistakes we see, it’s worthwhile to get familiar with the details that will help you:
- Understand the potential pitfalls of a shift to cloud
- Avoid redundancy and underutilization
- Get the most from service-oriented architecture
Understanding What it Takes to Shift to the Cloud
Imagine your team has decided to lift and shift your on-prem integration platform to the cloud. Conceptually, it seems straightforward enough to simply shift an existing integration system to a new environment. However, when planning systems integration projects, nothing is completely straightforward.
It’s likely that over years or decades, your IT team’s work initiating, maintaining, and adjusting the on-prem middleware has left technical debt that will impede your applications from operating in a cloud environment. Step one of any integration platform shift to the cloud is rooting out and fixing potential failure points latent in the code.
First, consider that cloud vendors have their own technical parameters. If your team has customized elements like the load balancer, clustering environment, or high availability parameters to meet specific requirements in your organization, they may not match with those defined by a cloud vendor. This means that before you make the shift to the cloud, your middleware will need to be tweaked to fit the new environment.
Even if your IT team has made no adjustments and your on-prem middleware and new cloud platform are provided by the same vendor, you can still encounter problems. Among the most common problem that arises from version differences: your older on-prem middleware may not be supported in the vendor’s cloud environment, which typically runs the most up-to-date releases. In this case, the middleware code base will need to be refactored to comply with the newer version.
This only scratches the surface of the complexity inherent in shifting to the cloud, but it should provide some insight into the amount of analysis and careful planning required for even the most seemingly straightforward projects.
Avoid Redundancy and Underutilization
It is critical to understand your middleware inside out if you want to make the most of your investment. Often lost amid the talk of middleware’s integration benefits are its end-to-end capabilities. It’s highly likely that your enterprise has purchased redundant software to complete tasks that can already be accomplished by your middleware.
Take electronic data interchange (EDI) for instance. EDI involves the digital exchange of business documents in highly specified formats. Many middleware solutions are not only able to read EDI files, but are able to create invoices in your ERP using the data from those files. Many organizations fail to leverage this middleware capability for only one reason: they’re not aware it exists. They then unknowingly duplicate their capabilities by purchasing separate software to translate EDI documents and complete invoices.
Redundancy is one problem. An equally pervasive issue is underutilization. It’s a problem that has driven a lot of attention to the topic of re-platforming, and inspired platform providers to make significant adjustments to their offerings.
Integration platforms often come with bundles that include hundreds of functions. However, only a handful may be required by your organization. Recently, the market has started offering options that untie that bundle. For instance, Dell Boomi offers a pay-as-you-go model that allows users to purchase individual functionalities on-demand. Naturally, this introduces the potential for a lower cost of ownership. If your organization can only list a few functionalities that are mission-critical on an on-going basis, it may be worthwhile to look into whether you can bring down your costs by opting for a more fitting subscription model.
The takeaway from all of this? Your organization may be paying for more functionality than it needs, either through redundant applications or bundled features that don’t have any role within your integration system.
To maximize the return on your middleware investment, it’s critical to know your software’s capabilities inside out and survey the market for the subscription offering most suitable for your organization’s needs.
Get the Most from Service-Oriented Architecture
Service-oriented architecture (SOA) enables the loose coupling of applications. It allows for simple application swapping and adjustment without requiring complicated code modifications to other integrated applications.
Despite this, some organizations inadvertently get mixed up. They tout the agility of their SOA-designed integration platforms but describe point-to-point integrations in the same sentence.
Point-to-point integrations defeat the entire purpose of the SOA approach. SOA not only enables highly effective integration among multiple applications, but allows your organization to easily change individual applications as your needs change. On the flip side, the unique and complex connections in a point-to-point integration model make changes incredibly time-consuming, costly, and burdensome.
One of OSI Digital’s clients, TaskUs, took full advantage of SOA framework benefits when converting its manual onboarding processes to an agile, automated solution that could handle scale. During the course of the project, TaskUs tested three different onboarding management applications before settling on one they felt matched their needs. The reason they were able to easily test each application and find the most suitable one is because the SOA design allowed the applications to remain loosely coupled. Download the success story to learn more about OSI’s project with TaskUs.
It’s Complex: Choose Your Partners Wisely
If SOA is part of your organization’s platform design, make sure you don’t fall into the point-to-point trap, which will negate the agility that SOA offers. Leveraging a cloud environment and systems integration can deliver significant value for your organization.
But it’s not a given – the idiosyncrasies of your processes, integration platform, vendor’s environment, and many other elements must be accounted for and adjusted appropriately in order to realize the potential. It’s a necessary task, and one you don’t have to take on alone. In fact, these are exactly the insights and services that you should expect a trusted consulting partner to provide.
Interested in Learning More?
OSI partners with leading organizations like Red Hat to deliver cloud migration and agile integration strategies to increase ROI for joint customers. Learn more about our Application Integration solutions.
Hilal Khan, Practice Leader, Application Integration
Hilal is an accomplished Oracle professional with focus on Fusion Middleware and integration strategies. Hilal excels in strategic planning and budget controls, and has a long history of building and leading highly efficient and successful teams. Hilal has a reputation for delivering mission-critical projects on schedule and within budget. With extensive experience in ERP technology, data modeling, developing data warehouses & SOA-based enterprise integrations, Hilal is responsible for the architecture and delivery of robust and scalable client solutions.