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With decades of analyst and integration industry experience, Frank Kenney is fountain of knowledge on all things tech. Now, he aims to share that awareness with you. Come back every other Thursday for your biweekly dose of thought leadership in this blog from one of technology’s most insightful thinkers and gain perspective on a variety of topics ranging from what’s happening in integration today to what’s on the horizon, poised to disrupt the integration space going forward.
In my favorite subreddit, /r/AskReddit, a question was recently asked, “What are some things that you say today that will make no sense in a few years?”
“Be careful. He may drop a dime on you…”
“Listen to my mixtape…”
“Internal application integration…”
Okay. Maybe I’m not the first to call out the last one, but I do feel that internal application integration is something that won’t make too much sense within the next few years. In fact, I could argue that it doesn’t make all that much sense today.
Any enterprise application that you deploy today will inevitably have some aspect of cloudiness to it. This implies that on-premise applications, in the purest sense, are increasingly anachronistic. For example if you are implementing a new business application, you will probably deploy:
- In a third-party private cloud
This cloud instance will likely be owned and operated by a third party like Google or Amazon.
- In a proprietary private cloud offering
This version of a private cloud is one that you own and manage yourself. Think of the myriad data centers that sit alongside the various hydroelectric dams in North America. In this case, your business can subscribe to the application that’s owned and operated by the vendor and delivered via the public cloud.
The point here is that all of these modern deployment scenarios are cloudy in one way or another. And even the cases that you might have considered internal are not really “internal” in the traditional sense. The mistake that we continually make is we use the word “internal” as a synonym for “self-managed” or “self-governed.” If highly distributed enterprise architectures and data centers along with high-speed conductivity didn’t muddy the waters between what you own and what you control, then iPaaS certainly has.
Let’s think about it another way. B2B integration is all about allowing applications that you own and control share data in a meaningful way with applications that you don’t own and control. That is to say, the applications that belong to your business partners. On the other hand, cloud integration is all about allowing applications and systems that you may own or control share data in a meaningful way with applications that you may not own and control. I.e. software-as-a-service applications (SaaS), platform-as-a-service systems (PaaS), etc.
When you look at it visually, B2B integration and cloud integration convey the same challenges. You have to make a way to ensure governance between two disparate endpoints, often where you have little or no control. This is not usually the issue when we think about true internal application integration. In this form of integration, I can pick up the phone and tell my ERP administrator what security protocols and transport mechanisms he will need to use to connect to the CRM system. I would argue that cloud integration is much closer to B2B integration than it is to true internal or enterprise application integration.
If we flip the opening question to say, “What are some things that you say today that would have made no sense a few years ago?” we get:
“Cardi B is a thing now.”
“What do you mean you’re not on Facebook?”
“Yep. All our apps are in the cloud.”
Time, as they say, marches on. And progress, if we aren’t careful, can make fools of us all.
So, let’s just agree that “internal” is not a word that works with modern enterprise architectures. Even when the necessary governance mechanisms are implicit, they still exist. You still have to read through the Salesforce API implementation guide to understand how to best govern the integrations that you’ll make consuming their services. You don’t control it in any way. Much like you don’t control your choices in how you want to integrate with Amazon or Walmart. And that’s okay. We’ve solved this problem with modern B2B integration technology.
Let me know your thoughts, and at the very least help me add to the list of things that you won’t be saying a few years from now!