Options for IntegrationBy Madeline Weiss Print
Hard-won experience has taught IT leaders to prepare for the challenges associated with integrating software-as-a-service solutions into legacy applications.
Many firms adopt single-sign-on as their first level of integration between SaaS applications, or between SaaS and on-premises functionality. SSO introduces a “hub” into the architecture that monitors a user’s session, authenticates the user for each of the integrated applications (the “spokes”) and passes simple data structures between the applications.
Integration platforms enable an organization to integrate applications either through in-house integration platforms that have been used in traditional environments or through integration-as-a-service platforms that are hosted in the cloud. Recognizing the growth of SaaS, traditional integration-platform vendors have enhanced their toolkits with prebuilt interfaces to many of the most popular SaaS solutions. For example, webMethods and TIBCO both have Salesforce.com adapters included, along with those for traditional vendors.
Integration-as-a-service vendors may have stronger support for SaaS applications than they do for traditional or legacy offerings. Some of the leading traditional players, such as IBM and Informatica, have extended their offerings into the service category, while other players, such as Adeptia and Boomi, have been designed from their inception to be a service provided though the Internet. The advantages of integration as a service models are similar to those that firms enjoy when they adopt SaaS: minimal upfront costs, fixed monthly service fees, rapid deployment requiring less in-house IT skill and all of
the economies of scale provided by multitenant applications.
Platform as a Service
SaaS providers have created platform as a service offerings by opening their architectures to outside developers and encouraging them to build additional capabilities. Customers are able to select specific functionality—perhaps from multiple vendors—to be delivered as a service through the PaaS platform. Current PaaS leaders are Salesforce.com’s AppExchange and Force.com platforms, and NetSuite’s SuiteCloud.
Both environments have attracted developers who have successfully launched applications, broadening the original application’s reach. Traditional vendors, including SAP with its Community Network, are considering opening their infrastructure to enable a broader network of developers to create business solutions.
Although current PaaS offerings have, in general, less robust functionality than those from top-tier ERP players, their cost structure is so dramatically different from the traditional approach that organizations are adopting the less sophisticated applications because of these economies. Additionally, because of the open nature of these platforms, development can happen quickly, and the functionality can be expanded if users require it.
The researchers observe an emerging application ecosystem for large organizations. Working together, major SaaS players are developing integrated suites that they predict will rival the sophistication of offerings from ERP vendors without the costs of an on-premises installation.
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