As more businesses move to some form of cloud solution, cloud integration platforms are becoming an invaluable tool for all types of projects. The cloud integration market is expected to see an annual compound growth of 18% over the next two years, according to Research and Markets. And more providers of cloud tools are expected to start adding or bundling cloud integration technologies to their cloud data package.
Cloud integration at a basic level is the integration of multiple cloud environments into a unified infrastructure package. Cloud integration can be done for organizations which use multiple public cloud providers, or by those who have a hybrid solution, which uses both cloud and on-premises data solutions. It enables efficient and transparent data access for both employees and applications.
Cloud integration is important as it enables the flow of real-time data and automation of analytics and insights, which can save an organization time and money. Through the use of cloud integration, businesses no longer have to wait hours or days for files to be exported and moved to other platforms, by which time the data could have lost a lot of its inherent value. This is especially important for modern real-time applications, which rely on data being fed to them at the point or close to the point of creation, not in a few days or weeks as is the typical turnaround for manual data processing.
On top of the need many modern applications have for real-time data, integration is also a necessity for some applications which are too complex for manual oversight. Event-driven architecture is often set up in a way that makes it hard to make changes in state, and to do so would be to ruin most of the value that these architectures provide to the business. Alongside this, many cloud applications and microservices are connected to APIs, which are built for automated data reception and processing.
The use of APIs can improve the collection, collaboration, management, and security of an organization’s cloud platform, by being the digital glue that pieces together the many disparate parts of a digital business.
Through the use of APIs, organizations can take data out of silos and connect them to analytics and visualization platforms, speeding up the process and also ensuring that the data is as close to real-time as possible. APIs can also be the bridge between legacy systems and modern technologies, which may use artificial intelligence or deep learning tools to analyze data. This includes Internet of Things (IoT) devices that sit on the edge of networks and may provide data at infrequent and irregular times.
APIs are also far less demanding to non-technical staff, as they can be used without a deep knowledge of coding. The integration of APIs into a workflow also requires far less code than building an integration tool from scratch would, speeding up development time and forestalling future maintenance and development time.
Even though cloud integration comes with a lot of advantages – some mentioned in the point above – there are also many challenges that organizations face throughout the process. Here are some of those:
- Legacy systems – The integration of modern applications and architectures with legacy systems is fraught with challenges. In some industries, security and privacy are paramount to avoid hefty fines and loss of reputation, so organizations need to ensure that the integration platform used is able to properly safeguard data from being accessed or intercepted.
- Cloud sprawl – It is easy, especially in the interim stages of figuring out the goals of a project, to purchase or subscribe to many different technologies, some of which may not align with the intended goals or may fail to perform as expected. To avoid this, businesses should have clear aims for the project and, if necessary, consult with experts to figure out the best solution for the job.
- Technical skills – Cloud integration tools should be as easy to use as possible to speed up projects and avoid technical shortages. One way to do this is to look for low or no-code tools which can be used by most employees instead of highly technical products that require an integration specialist to use.
- Misalignment – In a similar vein to cloud sprawl, misalignment from different teams in an organization can be a deterrent to successful digital transformation. All teams need to be on board with the change and have time to learn new tools and processes to ensure that they properly understand how to use them and the value they bring compared to what they used to use.
It is clear that as more businesses realize the competitive benefits of having real-time data, cloud integration platforms will start to see more interest. Two-thirds (66%) of businesses are piloting automation solutions, according to a McKinsey report. However, only 31% have automated at least one function, so there is still clearly a long road ahead before automation is commonplace in most industries. One of the main factors businesses say is holding them from automating more processes are issues around integration, with some projects failing to meet their intended goals due to lack of integration.
DataOps is the solution for many of these businesses struggling, and it is expected to have an increasingly important role in formalizing integration practices. Through the use of DataOps, organizations can operate in a more structured environment, which can lead to continuous development and improvement, less management complexity, and faster resolution of issues.
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