05/12/2016

The future of integration is now: Think hybrid!

What kind of consumer are you? Do you buy bread at the local bakery store or at the supermarket? Or do you order it online and have it delivered to your home? It’s no secret that our shopping habits have changed profoundly over the past few decades. Even though most of us still visit a mix of local stores, supermarkets and webshops, there may come a time when the Amazons of this world become our only ‘shopping interface’. They already offer consumers the convenience of a single platform that presents the combined product ranges of a multitude of retailers for doorstep delivery.
A similar evolution – albeit perhaps less visible in our daily lives – has been occurring in the world of integration. From the late nineties onwards, custom integration development for separate applications were steadily replaced by central integration platforms, which offered both efficiency and cost gains. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) became the new standard, with middleware solutions that enabled applications to communicate, each in their own language, with a central platform – the ‘supermarket of integration’, if you wish.

Today, we are entering a brand-new era. With the rise of new technologies such as cloud-based mobile applications and the Internet of Things (IoT), system integration has reached a new level of complexity. Many companies are implementing best-of-breed applications and most of the traditional EAI platforms don’t adequately support the associated new integration needs. This is creating demand for a different approach to application integration, which is where hybrid integration comes in. Instead of linking all applications to one central platform, you implement multiple platforms that communicate not only with each other but also with a set of niche applications they optimally support.

Towards best-of-breed integration

By combining the strengths of both cloud and on-premise integration platforms, you create an environment that is best suited to your entire application landscape. For example, the development of mobile apps is a process of weeks, not the months we are used to for traditional software development. As a result, you also need a platform that is built for this specific kind of development project and many middleware solutions simply aren’t up to the job. 

Besides that, hybrid integration platforms offer a much higher level of security. When connecting with external partners to share data, you don’t want to open up your entire IT system to them. To be able to share data safely or to develop mobile apps securely, you need new platforms with different approaches to authentication, for example, ensuring that a potential security breach or downtime won’t affect your entire application landscape.

Last but not least, a hybrid integration strategy is the best way to prevent costs from rising out of control. The challenges of managing a limited number of applications can’t be compared with those of managing the plethora of apps that companies use today. Therefore, you need platforms that are fit for purpose.

Get ready to support new business models

So what is holding organizations back from building a hybrid integration environment? Fear of the unknown? That is partly the case. Some companies see cloud integration platforms as a replacement for their current on-premise platform. But hybrid integration isn’t about replacing the old with the new; it’s about combining the strengths of the old plus the new, based on the variety of applications that are already in place. In a world where the most successful companies are shaking up their competitors by creating ecosystems that tie their customers closely to them – think of Apple and Amazon – we can’t turn a blind eye to the impact this evolution is having on our IT landscape.
So my message is: Be prepared! Think of which evolution your current business model will have to go through and start testing with new integration platforms. Don’t wait for your on-premise integration platform to prove its inability to support your future integration needs; give yourself a head start! The tools are already available, so allow them to drive your strategy and make your business future-proof. Don’t be the bakery store that didn’t see Amazon coming!

Author: Frederik-Jan Roose. You can follow Frederik-Jan on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.