What are integration connectors?

Integration connectors are out-of-box components offered by most major integration platforms that allow you to easily connect to and integrate with apps and data sources. Connectors can be used to:

  • Send to or receive data from packaged applications or databases
  • Send to or receive data from SaaS apps via APIs; some connectors can deliver data in bulk or streaming formats
  • Send to or receive data from partners using B2B standards like SWIFT
  • Send to or receive data from IoT devices
  • Send to or receive data and files from a vast range of technology sources using standard protocols and data formats like HTTP, FTP, JMS, XML, JSON, etc.

Why are connectors for integration important?

Integration connectors play a key role in functional and strategic areas of the business. Businesses need to connect their applications to complete processes like order-to-cash - which often cross several different systems - in an automated way. They need to connect to their systems of record to get access to data for analyzing the state of the business. They need to connect to their partners to have access to additional business opportunities and get others to do the things they’re not experts at. And of course, they need to connect to customers to deliver products and services – preferably in a digital medium that enables customization, targeting, and better understanding of customer behavior.

Consider also how often organizations have to change how they interact with customers and how they produce goods and services to stay relevant within their marketplaces. In order to stay competitive, they must be agile – able to go to market faster and adapt to requirements and to their competition. For example, a new lead from a Marketo® marketing campaign might be automatically propagated to Salesforce® for follow-up by the sales team. This interaction is time-sensitive. This is only possible if the two systems are efficiently integrated so that they can “talk” to each other and exchange data without barriers.

What is the role of connectors in integration?

Integration refers to connecting applications so that data from one system can be accessed by the other one. But integration involves a third party—in software terms, middleware—that translates the data and makes it understandable by the receiving system. And integration platforms can do much more than data mapping; they can add sophisticated logic and orchestration to control how applications interact.

However, integration can’t operate without being able to connect to applications and data sources. And the code needed to create reliable connections can be complex and time-consuming to maintain.

This is why most integration platforms offer connectors. They bring the entire business ecosystem together. Together with integration, they solve complex workflows and automate critical processes.

What kinds of connectors do businesses need?

Cloud connectors: The number of applications in the cloud has exploded. And as businesses move to the cloud, customer, sales, and product data becomes splintered across cloud and on-premises systems. That can make it difficult to get a single view of your product inventory, your customers, and your sales status.

IoT device connectors: It’s not just the cloud where new data sources are emerging: with IoT (internet of things), you can receive and send data from “things” such as windmills, industrial machinery, and many other devices.

Application connectors and database connectors: At the same time, traditional on-premises packaged and custom applications like SAP® are still the systems of record for core business data such as financial records, and those connectors are some of the most complex to create.

B2B connectors: And when working with partners, many of the protocols and standards must be strictly adhered to. Standards like SWIFT™, for example, ensure the exchange of financial information is reliable and secure between partners. Many workflows require data coming from one area, such as IoT, to be processed and handed off to another, such as core business processes. For example, data from a windmill may kick off a workflow that alerts a company to operational issues through an internal notification system. Payment from a partner via SWIFT is only part of a full transaction that ends with updating internal financial records in the business. If you don’t have a pervasive connectivity platform that allows you to connect to all of your systems and data, wherever they are, your automation capabilities will be limited.

What do I need to keep in mind when using connectors?

Connecting to a system is only one aspect of ensuring that your business processes, analytics, and customer-facing products are stable and maintainable.

  1. Many SaaS applications charge using consumption-based metrics. When using cloud connectors, it’s important to track usage to ensure you don’t exceed your SLAs.
  2. Similarly, cloud infrastructure providers like AWS often charge for transmitting data. Compressing and caching service requests to minimize the cost of data in the cloud can help business save money.
  3. With both on-premises and cloud applications, you may have a limited number of connections. When you reach that limit, you may be unable to connect, effectively shutting down any related workflow. Connector platforms that provide connection pooling and session management can ensure you optimize your available connections and give you real-time visibility into connection and session usage.
  4. Security is a key requirement when transmitting both business data and customer data. Support for a broad spectrum of security policies, signatures, and encryption is essential to ensure you can protect your services and data.
  5. Many businesses have custom systems that deliver their differentiating products and services. Being able to create your own custom connector that runs on an enterprise connectivity platform can enable you to link custom systems into automated workflows and processes easily.
  6. As SaaS applications, on-premises applications, devices, and other systems change, packaged connectors can stop working. Ensure your connectors are maintained across versions so you can upgrade your applications without risk.

For an agile, competitive business, take advantage of integration connectors to deliver faster and innovate at scale.