In this article, we'll cover:
- What is cloud integration?
- What is a cloud integration platform?
- What are the benefits of turning to a cloud integration service?
- Differences in cloud integration platform versus an enterprise service bus
- Cloud integration types and methods
- How industry leaders leverage cloud integration platform technologies
- Essential Elements of an integration platform
- The most flexible integration platform & key capabilities
In today’s day and age, the question is not whether an enterprise should keep its systems and business processes on-premise or in the cloud, but rather, what mix of enterprise and cloud-based applications should they have in place to best facilitate business-oriented outcomes? However, for a company to be able to successfully meld its on-premise and cloud applications together, it needs the proper cloud integration tools in place to do so.
And that’s where a cloud integration platform comes into play. The cloud offers a world of possibilities, but many companies are finding that integrating the cloud with its legacy software ends up being much more difficult than they anticipated. But thankfully, cloud integration services are evolving, including specialized cloud integration platforms with as-a-service capabilities to deliver solutions designed to better solve specific hybrid integration challenges.
Cloud integration is a system of solutions and technologies that connects multiple cloud environments, applications, or systems for the real-time exchange of data and processes.
By unifying disparate information solutions, cloud integration breaks down data silos, enhances visibility, and streamlines business processes.
To learn how to take advantage of the promise that a cloud integration platform brings, it is important to fully understand just what it does, and what it is capable of.
A cloud integration platform is a term often synonymous with the integration platform as a service (iPaaS) category under the application, integration, and middleware technology sector. Broadly, a cloud integration vendor offers an enterprise solution that provides features and functionality designed to enable integration between a company’s local data, files, and on-premise applications with cloud-hosted data and systems.
An integration platform needs to ensure seamless connectivity between the on-premise legacy environments and modern cloud-based applications. Without a proper connection in place, the company will be unable to successfully enable integration processes necessary to enable mission-critical business processes and deliver business value. A cloud integration platform that enables integration and process automation to make it much easier to integrate business processes.
A cloud integration platform provides automation tools that help connect software applications regardless of which environment that they are deployed in. Further, cloud integration platforms provide a centralized console to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications, using tools that connect cloud applications and services, and control integration flow. A company can use a cloud integration platform for a variety of reasons, namely to scale performance needs, add product functionality, as well as secure data, trading partner (B2B/EDI), and application integration.
According to Gartner, 85% of organizations will embrace a cloud-first technology by 2025. This massive adoption rate is due to the numerous advantages cloud integration services have over on-premise integration solutions. The benefits of cloud integration services include:
Data Integration Efficiency
Since business operations and processes are integrated with the cloud, users can spend more time analyzing information and real-time data instead of searching for it. Additionally, the cloud is less likely to experience downtime, so businesses experience increased productivity while saving money on maintenance costs. Lastly, users can automate processes such as issue identification or up-to-the-minute reporting. This removes the need for human intervention which often requires more time and is more susceptible to errors.
Flexibility and Scalability
Companies are better equipped to adapt to customer and market demands when using the cloud. This is because scaling with the cloud is much easier and more flexible than scaling with on-premise, physical hardware. With the cloud, everything is completed digitally in a fraction of the time, whether it is increasing server storage or decreasing computer power. Additionally, most cloud integrations can scale naturally with business demands, removing the need for human intervention.
Currently, companies rely on data to make daily decisions. When data is stored in a central location like the cloud, users can quickly source accurate, real-time data rather than sifting through various applications. Furthermore, cloud integration services usually provide the option for more in-depth data views, as well as customizable reporting and dashboards.
Since all data and information are stored in the cloud, anyone within an organization can find the information they need—as long as they are granted access. This helps remove data silos by democratizing information, removing inconsistencies between metrics, and promoting internal collaboration among different teams and departments.
Internal Communication and Collaboration
Similar to accessibility, teams are better able to share data and collaborate on projects with cloud integration. Since information is more accessible, teams can easily and securely share data. This data can be used to influence projects, strategies, decisions, and more. Plus, cloud-based collaboration empowers employees at the growing number companies that offer remote work opportunities. .
Data Loss Prevention
On-premise solutions save all data to physical machines. This means if the machine experiences issues or completely breaks, all data stored locally will be lost. The cloud prevents this issue from occurring because all data is stored in the cloud. This information can be accessed via any computer, anywhere in the world, as long as the correct login credentials are supplied.
It is only a matter of time before cloud integration services becomes standard. Companies that implement the technology now will be better acquainted with the technology than their on-premise counterparts. This gives them an advantage since they will already have the advanced technology, processes, and best practices in place, while competitors will be fighting to catch up.
Deploying on-premise integration is a lengthy process since each application needs to be individually installed on a physical server, as well as on each company device (computer, phone, tablet, etc.). Cloud implementation can take as little as a few hours to get up and running because the software is installed via the internet to distribute to the necessary devices. Some cloud platforms also offer agents that can easily make ground-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground data sharing happen; this means companies can stagger their on-prem to cloud upgrade timing to suit their needs.
Cost is a main factor in most business decisions. The cost of the cloud saves businesses money in the long run for a few reasons. Users waste less time rummaging through various platforms to find the information they need because all the data is located in a central location, thus improving productivity.
Companies can also modify their cloud package depending on usage. For example, if a company is not using all the storage they are allotted, it may be able to modify its plan to decrease the amount of storage. Therefore, the company is not wasting money on unused storage. Additionally, there is pay-as-you-go pricing which charges companies based on usage. This means companies pay for the exact amount of cloud integration capabilities they need and never more.
Moreover, while there is an upfront cost for cloud integration implementation, there is no physical maintenance or implementation needed. Everything can be completed remotely. Conversely, on-premise integration requires physical implementation and maintenance of clunky machinery. So not only do companies have to pay for the physical technology and implementation, but they also have to pay an on-site specialist to perform maintenance, updates, and error resolution.
When thinking about on-premise solutions, security is usually the responsibility of a company’s IT team which has countless other projects and tasks to work on. Therefore, only a fraction of their time is spent on security, making it much easier for bad actors to infiltrate systems, steal data and sensitive information, damage devices, and more.
With cloud integration services, security is a top focus. There are 24/7 monitoring and surveillance options for suspicious activity. This diligence and expertise makes it much harder for cybercriminals to hack into systems. If a cyberattack does occur, cloud providers can resolve the issue remotely through the internet, allowing for immediate action to resolve the problem.
Going green has been a big initiative for the technology industry. The cloud advances the cause by removing the reliance on physical hardware and machinery that end up in landfills across the globe. Instead, the technology is digital. This means less energy is spent building and powering machinery, as well as fewer machines are thrown out. Lastly, since maintenance is completed remotely, the cloud removes the need for a person to commute to an on-premise machine for installation, maintenance, and updates.
Since we’ve already discussed the fundamentals of cloud integration platforms, let’s take a moment to go over the enterprise service bus, or ESB, for short.
Basics of an ESB
An enterprise service bus (ESB) is essentially an architecture that is a set of rules and principles to facilitate the integration of different applications together.
While often characterized as legacy technology, an ESB is designed to:
- Integrate different applications via a communication bus
- Decouple business processes from one another
- Create system independence
While ESB might seem a bit outdated, it is still recommended for certain tasks, including creating and aggregating services, and a lightweight ESB is designed for embedded integrations. Whereas cloud integration platforms are far more flexible and allow an enterprise to do things much more efficiently.
When it comes to cloud integration there are two main types, enterprise and domain-specific. We outline each below so you can decide which option is best for your business.
Cloud Integration Platform Categories
Under the integration platform as a service umbrella, there are a few different categories where distinction matters. While at its most basic form, a cloud integration platform is a way to integrate cloud-based applications with existing systems, and in certain highly specialized instances provide domain-specific integration capabilities around ecosystem enablement, IoT, and mobility.
An EiPaaS solution is built to be high-functioning and versatile, able to do a variety of tasks based on enterprise-focused use cases. These tools are focused on enterprise-grade capabilities, and run a full spectrum of integration personas. The most likely companies to use EiPaaS are midsize, large, and global organizations.
A domain-specific iPaaS solution, on the other hand, is positioned as extremely high-productivity. DSiPaaS tools are also versatile but have a focused scope around verticals, ecosystems, processes, and regions. These are persona-oriented platforms that target very specific markets and use cases.
Examples of DSiPaaS specialization might include:
- B2B integration
- Big Data
- Data pipelines
The cloud integration platform market is growing rapidly; in fact, the segment of the application integration technology market will expand at just over 34 percent year-over-year, representing dynamic growth in the AIM space. So it’s no surprise that companies are starting to recognize the benefits and looking to take advantage in many ways.
1. B2B Data Exchanges
By leveraging an iPaaS platform, an enterprise holds its integration technology hosted in the cloud rather than behind its firewall. This enables seamless data management by allowing a company to receive data in real-time, quicker than ever. Having data available at the right time and place is critical.
2. Embedded Integration Offerings
Companies can also take advantage of embedded integration technologies, another advanced cloud integration mechanism. SaaS companies often have trouble trying to come up with a way for their in-house private cloud technologies to natively communicate across business boundaries to ensure seamless data movement and integration between their services and customers. Embedded integration capabilities mean that the B2B tools and features that connect customer systems and create a secure data gateway are built right into a SaaS architecture. This creates a much more seamless customer interaction with faster and more reliable information exchanges.
Because so many B2B ecosystems are expanding faster than ever, it’s imperative to be able to connect with a new partner or customer instantly. Onboarding needs to happen within a matter of hours, ideally. But cloud integration platform solutions make that more efficient than ever before. Regardless of what type of business processes and systems your partners and customers have, leveraging a cloud integration platform allows you to rapidly connect, saving precious time and resources, and enabling faster time to value.
There will also come a time when some type of change in solutions that either you, your partners, or customers must enable. And when that happens, changes will need to be made in your integration solutions. The right cloud integration platform allows you to make changes on the fly and provides full configuration over your entire portfolio.
5. Save Money
A cloud integration platform is much easier and affordable to set up, manage, and deploy any type of integration. It’s far more cost-efficient than outsourcing to an IT specialist to build everything in-house or hiring more full-time employees to manage a solution internally. Traditional integration, by comparison, necessitates creating custom connections to a third party application individually, which can skyrocket prices and system convolution in a hurry.
When selecting a cloud integration platform, it’s critical that an enterprise strategically knows what to look for and makes sure that they get it. Many vendors out there might latch on to a new hot buzzword, but beyond the hype are the fundamental elements that make up a cloud integration platform.
1. Robust Set of Connectors for SaaS and Cloud Services
The ability to add new services is one of the most essential ingredients that make up a cloud integration platform. An efficient cloud integration platform solution will come with pre-built connectors and API integration features that can handle even the most complex environment.
2. Easy to Manage Virtual Infrastructure
The more trading partners and customers that an enterprise takes on, the more complex an environment can get. That’s why it is so crucial that a cloud integration platform solution takes that complexity away and simplifies things. The platform must be easy to scale and use, and require no custom code or specialized skillsets to manage a daily integration operation.
An effective cloud integration platform will seamlessly provide automation for several different tasks. These range from integrating between online services, such as Salesforce and NetSuite, and process automation. Instead of spending employee resources on mundane, time-consuming processes, a cloud integration platform allows companies to integrate and automate those tasks efficiently to deliver better customer experiences and improve employee productivity.
There is no such thing as an effective cloud integration platform if it isn’t going to remain secure and protect your data. Companies need to ensure that their solution will not compromise sensitive data, and will have enhanced security so that it stays that way.
In an enterprise environment, it’s an understatement to say that things change fast, and a company needs to be able to incorporate those changes from a partner or customer in a hurry. Quickly connecting all systems and applications, regardless of where they are located, is a must. It doesn’t matter what type of application type is being connected – speed is the name of the game.
The Cleo Integration Cloud (CIC) provides the flexibility that customers crave, everything ranging from B2B, application, on-premise, and cloud integration, to data lake ingestion processes for extensive ecosystem enablement. CIC gives its customers an edge in the form of a digital business platform that enables relationship management, flexibility, and agility. Further, self-service tools and real-time visibility provide unrivaled simplicity and business intelligence in ecosystem integration scenarios. By spanning all modern integration use cases, CIC centralizes the governance of partner, supplier, and customer interactions for frictionless business process orchestration.
Cleo Integration Cloud’s Key Capabilities
Cleo Integration Cloud gives its users a range of features that make doing business much simpler than ever before. But not only is CIC simple, but it’s also effective, affordable, and makes you feel secure.
Onboarding has never been easier through CIC. Set up a new partner or new application integration in a fraction of the time compared to traditional methods. As noted above, one of the most important features of an integration platform is the ability to set up new and connections quickly – and that’s exactly what CIC does. In fact, CIC allows your business to add highly-secure ecosystem connections in a matter of minutes – not months.
There are a few standout features in the Cleo onboarding process that we should highlight.
File transfer protocols: support 20+ protocols so enterprises can conduct business with a variety of companies
Pre-configured integration templates: removes the need to build complex integration templates from scratch—instead enterprises can tweak pre-built templates to align with their needs
Business logic: Companies can personalize workflows and processes to fit their exact needs, without settling for standardized logic
Pre-built partner maps: companies can use Cleo’s pre-built partner maps instead of having to create a new one for each new trading partner
Business process visibility: CIC offers unparalleled visibility into each step in the business process so companies can monitor operations, report on performance, and identify/fix errors
Robust Data Movement
The next feature that CIC includes is that it can extend integration capabilities out to partners and customers which makes it that much easier for an enterprise to do business with. The ability to move extensive amounts of data is one that cannot be understated, and Cleo Integration Cloud moves data of any size, volume, or type up to 345 percent faster than competitors.
Throughout a business process, from start to finish, enterprises want to have true, clear visibility into all of their data. CIC allows companies to access real-time visibility into all data being generated and exchanged throughout the entire business.
Accelerated Business Value
Increase the value of your business with the power of CIC. When organizations integrate their business applications and processes via the cloud, they are better able to analyze performance. Companies can then take their findings to optimize processes and the supply chain to improve efficiencies and boost revenue.
Self-Service, Managed-Services, and Blended-Services
Cleo offers three service options; self-service, managed services, and blended-services—so businesses can select the best option for their B2B integration needs.
Managed Services: Cleo fully installs, manages, and monitors a company’s EDI processes. This is a great option for businesses that have little internal bandwidth, lack in-house expertise regarding EDI, and/or do not want to be ‘in the weeds’ of EDI processes. It also helps ensure smaller companies stay current with rapidly evolving integration technology.
Self-Service: A company’s internal team is responsible for all EDI installation, setup, and management. This option is good for companies that have in-house bandwidth and EDI experts, desire the greatest visibility into their EDI processes, and/or want to manage relationships with trading partners.
Self + Managed Services: A combination of self-service and managed services, offering customers the greatest flexibility. This option is best for companies that want the convenience of occasional managed services from Cleo but are also capable and willing to undertake some EDI responsibilities themselves.
Lastly, businesses can switch approaches depending on their evolving needs. This gives companies the flexibility to scale their business according to the continuously changing market demands.
Do Business Faster With Cleo Integration Cloud Today
Whether it’s an easy-to-use interface, wizard, or template, CIC shields your business from the complexity of modern integration of any kind, regardless of cloud, application, or trading partner requirements.
By leveraging Cleo Integration Cloud, users can quickly and securely exchange, transform, validate, and integrate all of their data. Businesses can also optimize cost with a predictable solution TCO allowing new connections to be added rapidly to support a faster time to value. It’s integration anyway – and anywhere you want it.