Bridging the Cloud and Legacy EnvironmentsBy Tony Kontzer Print
Organizations are turning to a variety of integration workarounds as they attempt to move data between growing cloud environments and dwindling legacy resources.
Because of the growing role SaaS apps are playing at Graham, Kochar says he and his team have been investigating cloud-based integration tools such as SnapLogic and IBM's CastIron as possible solutions. He likes that such services promise to take matters out of his hands by managing any changes to the adapters used for cloud integrations—all while ensuring that applications are monitored for performance and quality.
"If there are changes, they change the adapter, and you can be protected," says Kochar. "Connecting up a new vendor becomes just a configuration. It all sounds good … but we'll see."
Keeping It Simple
Charles Zieres, vice president of IT at the Preferred Hotel Group, has taken an approach similar to that of the USTA's Bonfante: He's opted for keeping integration simple by limiting it to data feeds.
Zieres has an advantage in that he only is running one application that he considers legacy, and it's a Microsoft Access database of details on the hundreds of hotels the company supports. It includes details such as the names of general managers, types of rooms, and where letters and emails should go. That data is fed nightly into Preferred's Citrix desktop virtualization engine, along with data from the company's Microsoft CRM environment and other apps, all of which are running in Terremark's multitenant Infinicenter infrastructure-as-a-service cloud.
Citrix is used to put all that data in the hands of Preferred's 100 mobile salespeople, who can run Citrix on their laptops rather than running multiple clients locally.
Zieres says handling legacy-cloud integration in this way via an outsourced infrastructure is ideal for a company structured like Preferred, whose brands included Preferred, Summit and Sterling.
"It works really well because Preferred Hotel Group is a mile wide but an inch deep," he says. "We have 250 employees spread over 50 offices worldwide. The more global I can have my infrastructure, the better."
That doesn't mean he isn't seeking improvement, however. Because the Access app remains a pain point for his team, Zieres says he's planning to retire it this year. At that time, the Access app will be removed from the Citrix list, and his team will begin feeding the data into the Microsoft CRM.
The other area closest to a legacy-cloud integration Zieres contends with involves the nightly data files Preferred receives from distributors like Travelocity and Orbitz. That data, which must be fed into the company's SynXis SaaS booking engine, comes in two ways: More sensitive data such as credit card numbers and other personal customer data come in as encrypted SFTP files, while non-sensitive data is packaged in unencrypted FTP files.
While the USTA, Graham Holdings and Preferred Holdings have all fashioned rudimentary integration workarounds between their shrinking legacy footprints and growing public cloud environments, Forrester's Heffner dreams of a time when enterprises can rise above the integration fray. He says that if all the siloed applications enterprises rely on today were running on-premise, a service-oriented architecture (SOA) would be the simplest solution to the integration quagmire.
Heffner believes that companies should apply that SOA mindset by designing custom role-based interfaces that move data from multiple applications through a single business service, combining all of a user's applications into a single-sign-on work environment.
"What if I looked at it as a business coherence problem and not a data integration problem?" Heffner asked. "That offers potentially higher business-value integration."
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