Cloud & Cloud Integration Strategy & Framework

A cloud strategy is about defining your organizational motivations and goals for adopting cloud, whether it is a private, public, or hybrid cloud.  Organizations identify the following reasons for moving to the cloud:

•  Accelerate Application Delivery to gain competitive advantage

•  Improve IT Efficiency of staff and infrastructure

•  Expand Markets with new capabilities and into new geographies

•  Increase Investment Flexibility to optimize for the best return

•  Reduce Risk with control and continuity of your critical applications

•  Offload IT Responsibilities to IT third-parties who provide support, maintenance, and upgrades

Once you have identified your goals for adopting a cloud strategy, then you can focus on your requirements.  Your requirements whether a multi-cloud approach leveraging two or more public clouds or private clouds is optimal for your needs versus a hybrid cloud architecture where workloads run in both public and private clouds.  The following checklist represents the requirements that drive an organization’s cloud strategy:

•  “Anywhere” Operations Model: The ever-expanding reach of public clouds enables you to run your applications in various geographic regions around the world to satisfy compliance requirements and target customers.

•  Leverage of Existing Investments: Some existing applications/ systems and legacy hardware are good candidates to be deployed in both private and public clouds, as well as hybrid clouds.

•  Cost Optimization: An organization must conduct a cost comparison assessment to determine whether it is cheaper to use one cloud provider or type of cloud for some workloads while a different cloud may prove more cost effective for other workloads.

•  Provision of Distinct Capabilities: Each cloud has distinct features or services offered by cloud providers that may be crucial for a particular application or systems of differentiation within an organization.

•  Resilient & Robust Architecture: An organizations can ensure high availability by leveraging multiple clouds for failover and disaster recovery.

•  Vendor Leverage: Using multiple cloud providers and having the ability to move workloads allows an organization to negotiate the best possible discounts from a cloud provider.

•  Future-proof Cloud Deployment: The public cloud infrastructure market is moving rapidly, so using multiple clouds enables an organization to take advantage of the latest compute upgrades, services offerings, and pricing models rather than being locked into a single provider.

•  Multi-cloud Capabilities: Although an organization may have an existing cloud strategy, it’s not uncommon for new use cases to develop that require a different cloud, or for a business unit to stray from the enterprise cloud and start using another cloud, or for an acquisition to occur that results in the need to support multiple clouds.

•  Best Practice Alignment: Industry best practices assure that you have properly and diligently evaluated your cloud requirements and understand the business, economic, and technology impacts of a target cloud deployment.


Cloud Integration

It’s important for business and IT management to understand that yesterday’s integration approach of manually recreating point-to-point integrations from scratch is no longer fast enough to keep pace with an organization’s rapid growth and integration requirements, especially if we want to be in the cloud and have someone else take responsibility.  A more robust approach to application integration is required in order to keep up with the organization’s changing business model and its need to adapt to a changing competitive market.  There are several considerations to simplify cloud integration as companies transition from a complex application integration architecture (i.e. whatever we have now) to a simple and agile integration platform (which we should have soon if we’re going to be competitive with other companies). 

There are five considerations to keep in mind when simplifying cloud integration.  These considerations are part of a collective integration philosophy based on an organization’s integration maturity and knowledge base in migrating interfaces and integration solutions to the cloud.

1. Leverage Prebuilt Integrations. Commercially-available integration platforms provide prebuilt interfaces and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) providing seamless integration between its applications and systems.

2. Leverage crowdsourced Data Input. Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.  For example, Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS) provides crowdsourced input of previous users of Oracle ICS, including users, customers, and partners.

3. Bypass Configuration through SaaS. Organizations are tired of time-consuming and error-prone procedures of configuring their integration platforms prior to integrating their applications.  The auto-association of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications removes all this heart-ache and gives companies the ability to bypass the complexity of setting up the integration platform for these applications.

4. Empower Users to Integrate Applications. The biggest problem with today’s integration platforms is the fact that you have to be an expert integration developer to use many of its highly advanced integration features.  This is all changing with cloud integration platforms, which are catering to end users.  These new cloud integration platforms have the technological advances that allow users to build the integration pipes between applications, while the IT experts provide guidance and ensure standardization of integration solutions across the enterprise.

5. Prepare Cloud to On-Premises Portability. Some organizations are bound by corporate policies and industry regulations regarding the sensitivity of its data, thus prohibiting its data to be in a public cloud.  In such cases, this data could be transitioned to an on-premises private cloud infrastructure, and integrated with public cloud solutions.


IT Architects provides a service to develop a Cloud Strategy, which also includes cloud integration.  IT Architects provides a Cloud & Cloud Integration Framework to help you define and implement a successful cloud strategy, which focuses on 5 key activities:

1. Defining when and how your organization should use public, private, and hybrid cloud services.

2. Augmenting your organization’s financial abilities to manage capital and operational expenses over time.

3. Determining how your organization plans to achieve the right level of service across the cloud and the data center.

4. Defining the rules and regulations that a selected cloud provider needs to adhere to in order to keep your organization secured and in compliance.

5. Identifying how your organization plans to control the data as it moves out of your data center into external clouds.

There is no one right path or strategy to leveraging cloud services within your business.  The decision depends on your data center, applications, service portfolio, security, integration, and changing business requirements.  Cloud deployment cannot occur without taking into account all the required integrations between cloud and on-premise applications, as well as those to other cloud platforms and external entities.  IT Architects considers three main factors when assessing complexity and merging existing integration environments into a single cloud-based integration platform and remediating interfaces:

1. Software Standards between Public & Private Cloud-based Models
In general, the integration software components are the same: application connectors or programming interfaces (also known as APIs), a transformation mapper, data enrichment, data filtering, data distribution, integration monitoring, distributed data access/query, and some others.  This similarity in integration software components should make migration easier. However, depending on what integration components an organization uses today, migration can be complex, especially if legacy and archaic integration code exists.  In this case, integration experts will be required to refactor the integration solution into the cloud.

2. Architecture Standards between On-Premise & Cloud-based Integration
As in the prior point, if the data and application architectures are the same between on-premise and cloud, portability will be straight-forward, regardless if it is a private, public, or hybrid cloud. If not, let the vendor experts help you develop a standard cloud architecture and port everything from your on-premises environment.

3. Business Process Standards between On-Premise & Cloud-based Integration
Again, if the industry standard business process modeling notation is the same (such as BPMN), and the same business process execution language (BPEL) can be generated for on-premise and cloud platforms, this simplifies reuse of components when migrating from an on-premise to a cloud integration platform. If you’re not using BPMN and BPEL, then a lot more time and effort, as well as help from the vendor, will be required to move to a modern-day business process standard.

Many organizations believe that the cloud has the potential to dramatically reduce the costs of managing their technology infrastructure.  Thus, cloud as a platform needs more investigation before applying it to a set of business problems.  Furthermore, before your organization gets too far down the road, it has to understand the economic model of a cloud deployment and make sure that it has a strategy and roadmap for how and when it is going to use cloud services within the enterprise.