The need for integrated IT systems is no longer in question. Modern organisations rely on data to drive operational and strategic decisions, but it’s not possible to use this data effectively if it’s sitting in silos. Therefore, once an enterprise has decided to integrate, the next question is: how?
Answering the “how” question depends on existing IT systems architecture, the stage of the cloud migration journey, and understanding the different integration solutions that can be applied.
Research from the Cloud Industry Forum provides some insights into the state of cloud adoption in the UK. According to the research, which covers small, medium, and large enterprises as well as public sector organisations, 88 per cent have already implemented cloud technology to some extent. However, only eight per cent are operating entirely in the cloud, while 54 per cent aims to move to a fully cloud-based system landscape in the future.
When looking at the integration approach, the organisation needs to assess to what extent it’s already operating in the cloud. A fully cloud-based IT architecture only needs a cloud-based integration solution. On the other hand, if an organisation hasn’t yet started any cloud migration activities, then an on-premise integration platform is a more appropriate solution.
A hybrid integration approach is best suited to those organisations which are currently operating a hybrid IT landscape comprising both cloud-based and on-premise systems. A hybrid approach means that organisations don’t have to delay integration until their cloud migration is completed. They can operate an integration platform that connects their legacy on-premise systems, and a cloud-based integration service for their cloud infrastructure and applications.
Advantages of a Hybrid Integration Approach
The research previously mentioned also outlines the reasons that organisations are moving into the cloud. These include flexibility of delivery, scalability, operational cost savings, and competitive edge.
However, the speed of migrating all IT architecture to the cloud has a direct relationship with the size of the organisation attempting to do so. Larger organisations naturally move at a slower pace, because the work involved in migration is that much more significant, whereas smaller enterprises tend to be more agile.
Furthermore, many companies or public sector bodies may make a conscious decision to host specific systems or data on-premise. This may result from concerns about the security of sensitive data being hosted in the cloud. It may simply be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” where a legacy system is still fit for purpose.
Either way, a hybrid approach enables the company to achieve full systems integration without having to wait until the cloud migration journey is complete. Furthermore, such an approach allows the organisation to leverage many of the same benefits that a cloud migration also aims to achieve.
Considerations for a Hybrid Integration
There are various factors to consider when implementing a hybrid integration. Time and cost are always two of the most significant. Depending on the systems landscape and the chosen platform(s), it may be necessary to bring in external support. While this adds expertise, it can take more time on discovery.
Furthermore, ongoing running costs will also be a consideration. Ideally, your chosen solution won’t involve hiring in-house experts to maintain the integration solution once implementation is complete. Moreover, the optimal integration solution will empower the business to perform more of its own integrations, reducing the reliance on IT resources.
Any solution should be able to handle the complexity of your systems landscape. Not all platforms will necessarily support all systems and databases. Therefore, there will need to be a matching exercise. If the integration solution doesn’t support some legacy systems, there may be further business decisions to prioritise those for cloud migration sooner rather than later.
On a similar note, the hybrid integration solution needs to be as future-proof as possible. If you plan to continue future cloud migration activities, then the chosen integration approach should be flexible enough to accommodate this without extensive further implementation work. Similarly, if you have ongoing cloud migration activities planned, these should be factored into the hybrid integration implementation too.
Security is another factor to consider. Integrating involves introducing new connectors between systems. Integration providers should be able to offer security guarantees, avoiding the introduction of new points of weakness into the systems architecture.