While SaaS has allowed businesses to quickly and inexpensively deploy applications, it is bringing with it a new twist on an old problem—integration.
Flashback to July 1, 2003, where Christopher Koch in “A Critical Look at IBM's On-Demand Computing Marketing Campaign” on cio.com wrote:
Fast forward, where we see that each new round of technology over the past two decades—from Business Process Reengineering to Internet Computing to e-Business On Demand to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)—was supposed to solve the problem and deliver agility through easy integration. But it never happened.
Enter the cloud and SaaS, which emerged as the latest and best hope for achieving agility by enabling companies to offload to an external provider all the headaches of deploying and managing computer systems.
But it appears that the age-old problem has again reared its ugly head. As Herman Mehling wrote, “The number one cloud and SaaS challenge for many developers and organizations might just surprise you. It's not security, lack of standards, or even reliability, but... dramatic drum roll... integration.”
Indeed, there is a rising chorus of analysts warning about a new wave of gnarly integration problems being ushered in by SaaS. Among them is Loraine Lawson, who wrote, “I just can't help but think organizations may be repeating in the cloud the same integration mistakes they made with on-premise databases and computer systems years ago.”
Ravi Kalakota calls the SaaS integration problem the “cloud in-the-corner syndrome” and writes: “CIOs have seen this ‘cloud in the corner’ and data silo problem too many times in the past. They know how this movie is likely to unfold. Data quality and integration issues — aggregating data from the myriad sources and services within an organization.”
What some analysts are promoting is that SaaS vendors will solve the integration problem on their end via what is called iPaaS (integration platform as a service). Says Herman Mehling, “New iPaaS offerings aim to relieve the pain of SaaS and cloud integration, which has been so onerous that many organizations have pulled the plug on SaaS projects.”
However, iPaaS is only one apraoch. As Gartner analyst Benoit Lheureux relates, “A recurring theme with users integrating multiple SaaS applications is whether to put the integration solution ‘center of gravity’ on-premise – or in the cloud. And whether to implement the solution themselves – or with the help of an external provider.”
What users tend to be getting from analysts are perplexing lists of SaaS integration providers and possibilities. As Hollis Tibbetts writes of Gartner’s prescriptions for SaaS integration, “They present a bewildering array of options (not all of which are available to organizations, many which will not be available for a long time) and then just leave people potentially hanging in a state of confusion.”
SaaS integration seems to be shaping up as a replay of IT business as usual—requiring expensive service engagements performed by third-party systems integrators. This can be seen in the arms race taking place as large vendors like IBM, Cisco, Google, Dell, HP, and others gobble up the promising new vendors that have arisen to provide SaaS integration—Cast Iron Systems, Boomi, Informatica, SnapLogic, Jitterbit, et al.
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