The five roadblocks to integration productivity in a hybrid cloud world
The cloud is full of promise, but also full of complexity—especially for the modern enterprise. You need a smart approach to integration to run smoothly in a hybrid multi-cloud world—but the integration platforms of today aren’t able to get the job done. Fortunately, there is hope.
Introduction: Why multi-cloud is a gift and a curse
The biggest story in IT over the last 10 years has been the rise of the cloud. 60% of the world’s corporate data is now stored in the cloud—up from 30% in 2015. By 2025, according to research by Gartner, IT spending on public cloud computing will overtake spending on traditional IT. Gartner estimates there is $1.8 trillion at stake.
For all its opportunities, this mega-trend also comes with challenges. Most businesses today find themselves managing complex hybrid and multi-cloud environments, regardless of whether that was their intention. Through mergers and acquisitions, legacy data and infrastructure requirements, and the proliferation of new cloud-based apps, organizations are seeing their business-critical information dispersed into a tangled web across cloud and on-prem environments—instead of being streamlined and centralized. In fact, 8 out of 10 enterprises report that managing this multi-cloud environment is one of their greatest challenges according to Flexera.
For integration experts, multi-cloud is both gift and curse. As an accelerator of digital transformation, the cloud helps you connect and exchange data in real time, scale data handling up or down, increase visibility across IT, and better control costs. But with that comes additional challenges around synchronizing policies and providers, establishing security across operations, and enabling advanced automations for the business to serve themselves. Integration should be part of the solution. But too often, integration practitioners are pushed to their limits, as information silos hit hyper proportions, access permissions multiply, and third-party firewalls shut developers out.
8 out of 10 enterprises report that managing this multi-cloud environment is one of their greatest challenges.
You’d think after 10+ years of rapid growth, there’d be an enterprise-grade fix. But the solutions that most integrators typically turn to—the Integration Platform as a Service, or iPaaS—increasingly fall short. They either sacrifice power for ease-of-use for citizen integrators, or they are so complex that only the IT team can use them, resulting in never-ending backlogs of requests. To address this, enterprises adopt multiple platforms, often with duplicate integrations— or worse, shadow integrations created by well-intentioned business-line users.
In a hybrid multi-cloud world, integration is now both solution and problem.
That means you’d better have a solid plan geared toward interoperability, security, portability, and flexible management. Otherwise, you’ll need to overcome a set of roadblocks that risk stopping your multi-cloud strategy in its tracks.
So what are these roadblocks? Why isn’t your iPaaS able to handle them? And how could a new approach to integration lead you down a more productive path? This guide seeks to ease the burden on integrators by offering some answers.
The multi-cloud integration dilemma
To start, it’s worth probing deeper into today’s most common integration conundrum: While practitioners can connect almost anything, almost anywhere, until now there’s been no single iPaaS on the market that can do it alone.
Today’s iPaaS typically comes in one of two varieties—heavyweight IT-focused and lightweight project-oriented:
The heavyweight iPaaS was designed with the traditional integration model in mind. Born from an on-prem integration server or ESB and engineered for the IT elite, it relies on complex code and a deep understanding of APIs and integration theory. These industry heavyweights offer scale and reliability and the most comprehensive “single source of truth,” by integrating SaaS applications with other SaaS and on-premises applications, and other sources of data. Their power, though, comes at a (literal) cost: they’re notorious for straining balance sheets. Integration projects are usually few in number—with release cycles that span months or even years. And since they’re the domain of IT, business line users either need to wait for the IT team to complete their requests or adopt a more lightweight equivalent.
The lightweight iPaaS, now moving into mainstream maturity, is a result of that demand from business. In a bid to simplify modern integration delivery practices, these platforms appeal to teams within specific lines of business who can self-service using low-code tooling. With rapid release cycles measured in weeks, they offer access to numerous endpoints through lightweight developments of APIs and events. Their agility and ease of use, though, come with limitations. Most lack the advanced capabilities and deployment models of their heavyweight iPaaS cousins: when it comes to complex hybrid integrations, you’re out of luck. They’re also more likely to expose your business to security and compliance risks. And their rise has had the detrimental effect of scattering your data even further.
That both approaches have their limitations likely isn’t news to you: Gartner has been highlighting for several years that there’s no single tool on the market capable of meeting all application and data integration requirements. Perhaps your COO or CTO has even asked you for one—and you’ve been left drawing blanks. Like many enterprises facing the lack of a one-size-fits-all solution, there’s a good chance yours has adopted both—each to solve different pieces of its integration puzzle.
The result is more integration chaos. Shadow integrations. Poor visibility and control. Duplicated work. Data that is exposed across borders that will upset data regulators.
In sum, for far too many businesses, the move to the cloud is not creating a single, integrated solution—but multiple islands of integration. This, in turn, leads to roadblocks—which impact IT leaders, architects, and operators, and ultimately reduce enterprise productivity.
The five roadblocks to integration productivity
Imagine you’re a multinational enterprise—a logistics firm, for example—that wants to build and deploy a new service to help link retailers and shipping providers. Your company, like most of its competitors, has multiple integration platforms running across multiple clouds: one hosted by Azure in the US, and another hosted by AWS in Europe. Getting the new service up and running involves a range of testing and quality assurance—and because different users have different permissions the process is taking longer than expected. Your Europe-based team working on Azure keeps hitting firewalls, which is dragging their work into the weekend. When they’ve finally finished, they’ll need to start from scratch and repeat the same integrations in AWS. It’s a demoralizing process. It makes it near impossible to capitalize on the full value trapped in your data. And it will happen again and again.
Roadblock 1: Task duplication—a never ending story
The above story is a stark example of the first, and arguably most debilitating roadblock faced by practitioners working across multiple clouds, with more than one integration platform. For each tool in their arsenal, they need to re-create, re-test, re-configure, and redeploy similar services. Not only is task duplication sluggish: it makes finding and fixing errors a major headache. It eats up valuable time and money. And it’s a story that keeps going on and on.
Roadblock 2: Data residency—too many moving parts
Another common roadblock relates to the ever-shifting landscape of data regulations. As governments around the world introduce new requirements, firms with a presence in multiple jurisdictions must constantly adapt. Not only is it vital to understand which cloud vendor you’re using, but also where that cloud is physically located. Doing so with multiple integration platforms makes your international transactions even more complex—and makes it harder to demonstrate compliance while avoiding penalties.
Roadblock 3: Risk assurance—protecting your data
Security in your cloud environment is paramount: even a single breach of data can cause long term reputational—and financial—damage. Yet when processes and transactions cross multiple integration platforms, the complexity of tracking your data, systems, and networks spikes. Malicious actors can more easily slip by unnoticed. And a lack of visibility means you cannot react in real time to fix problems before they escalate.
Roadblock 4: Core control—now you see it, now you don’t
The rise of the cloud service-based iPaaS has been a benefit to intrepid business users: now, they have the tools to create their own automations, without banging down IT's doors. Too often, though, these ungoverned shadow offerings, created with multiple platforms, lack proper operational support. They’re near impossible to monitor and track—and are counterproductive to one of IT’s core goals: centralized control.
Roadblock 5: Data complexity—lost at sea
Companies that struggle in a multi-cloud world often fail to realize the potential of their data: multiple platforms mean that data is often siloed in different pipelines, each with their own formats and protocols. With that data adrift, opportunities to leverage it for insights and efficiencies are lost. And the enterprise is worse off for it.
Integrators in a distributed world: a novel approach
What our imaginary multinational logistics firm needs is a new approach to integration—one designed to break through the roadblocks, and the chaos, of multiple platforms, endless duplication, and the disconnect between different teams in different regions. What if you could combine the best that the heavyweight and lightweight iPaaS have to offer—to create a powerful engine to build and manage complex hybrid integrations, with the agility to develop and deploy anywhere, in days rather than weeks?
At Software AG, we believe this is the basis for a new approach to integration—one built upon a single hybrid platform that recognizes the complexity of today’s business landscape and can fully deliver on transparency, productivity, and agility. Instead of being forced to choose between feature-rich developer tools and lightweight cloud UIs, this approach is built around a single sophisticated development tool you can use in a browser or even offline. With an AI-enabled interface, business users can easily create their own workflows. Critically, you can monitor and control everything from a single place, to finally get a whole view of those shadow integrations—and ensure you unlock the value of your data.
This new approach differs from the status quo in five important ways:
First, it makes the burden of task duplication a thing of the past. With a develop anywhere, deploy anywhere model, creators can design a service once, and deploy it in a managed iPaaS, on a public cloud in another region, in a private cloud or even on premises. Developers can start integrations remotely with licensing, security and dependencies automatically applied. Business users can easily create automated workflows using their own friendly drag & drop or even natural language UI. And since their integrations can be validated and managed by IT, they won’t need to operate in the shadows. Business and IT can become collaboration partners for innovation.
Local reach, central control
Second, it helps you combat the complexity of data residency, by enabling all integrations to run locally, close to the source of data, while being controlled from a central iPaaS console. That means you handle data compliance in accordance with local regulations—and gain optimal performance when interacting with data sources in different regions. With this new approach, you’ll also be able to orchestrate these integrations into more complex transactions with full end-to-end visibility from your central user interface.
The third change is a move toward tighter security—by giving you a private VPN for every customer. This protects your identity and your data no matter where your integrations and APIs are running; on prem, in private cloud, or in public clouds across the globe. It vastly reduces the risks of connecting multiple networks—and keeps you and your data safe from malicious actors.
The fourth difference is a move toward far more comprehensive observability. Whereas enterprises running multiple platforms tend to struggle with visibility, this new approach lets you debug and alert on integration transactions running anywhere in the world in real time. In effect, it gives you a “single pane of glass” to manage your APIs, integrations, or data pipelines—no matter where they’re hosted—and improve your operational resilience.
Finally, this approach vastly simplifies how you connect and leverage data—through smart data pipelines that link applications, databases, SaaS platforms and even big data platforms such as Snowflake. All of that drives powerful analytics—to improve your reporting, and help you make informed decisions that ultimately fuel growth. Strategic decision making depends on this foundation.
The new iPaaS for a hybrid multi-cloud world
What we are describing is a new category of integration – the Super iPaaS. It’s what’s required to keep enterprises connected and running efficiently in a hybrid multi-cloud world.
We are introducing the industry’s first Super iPaaS by combining the connectivity of webMethods, our industry-leading integration platform, with the data integration capabilities of StreamSets. Together, they help you integrate anything, anywhere, any way you want—all in a single platform.
The Super iPaaS provides the agility required across data and applications—to help enterprises adapt quickly to new opportunities. It fosters productivity, by allowing more users to get more done, together. And it empowers your organization with stronger governance, giving you the visibility to meet external regulations while ensuring enterprise-grade security. Instead of integration chaos, it offers a single, centrally managed platform that can be used by everyone across your enterprise. It gives you the power to rapidly adapt to your technology needs, answer business requests quickly, and have exacting control over every integration across your business.
It delivers six capabilities that makes it unlike anything that’s come before it. It allows you to:
- Work flexibly—and fast. You can use your preferred tooling—online or off, in any cloud or on-premises—to design, develop, and deploy integrations anywhere, without having to build the same thing twice.
- Regain control of your integration landscape. With a “single pane of glass” view, you can monitor, manage, and operate integrations, APIs, and data pipelines across complex hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructures.
- Capitalize on past, present, and future data. By connecting any source to analytics, including apps, APIs, and events, you can turn data into decisions, with seamless flows from on-prem to the cloud and back.
- Achieve instant productivity with a single user interface. A unified iPaaS experience means you only have to learn a single set of tools; metering and usage reporting are streamlined; and collaboration is built in.
- Rapid scale-up. With a composable API and event-enabled architecture, you can say “yes” to real-time business demands and build better experiences for customers, employees, and partners.
- Make everyone an integration expert. Through an easy-to use, generative AI interface, anyone can create integrations—and your enterprise can manage them from one central place to ensure shadow integrations don’t proliferate.
Conclusion—Fulfilling the promise of the cloud
Is your enterprise seeking a way to move beyond the complexity of multiple clouds and integration platforms? To leave behind the constant frustration of duplicating tasks, integrations living in the shadows, and data that’s never visible? If so, you’re far from alone. The speed of business today, after all, means that companies who struggle in the multi-cloud world will almost certainly lag behind the competition. The more connected an enterprise can become—through efficient, agile integration—the better positioned it is to thrive by getting value out of your data.
Now, for the first time ever, you can have a single integration platform that can be used by everyone across your enterprise—yet managed centrally, with end-to-end visibility, to put an end, once and for all, to integration chaos. Now, you’ll be able to launch new products, tap into new streams of revenue, and compete in new markets—without massive changes to your technology stack and without introducing new risks. You’ll have the agility to pivot as the technology landscape changes. Your users will be more productive. And you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re in complete control, with end-to-end visibility across all your integrations.
Get in touch to learn more about how Software AG can help you connect your enterprise.