Integration has always been hard work. It requires dealing with the complexity of the diverse landscape of applications and the nuances of how these apps expose their information and services. As we move forward, the diversity of things that need to be integrated is rising exponentially. SaaS applications, APIs from internal and external sources, new big data environments—all of these systems are growing aggressively and putting pressure on integration teams.
This expansion, coupled with the need for business to move faster, changes the way we need to look at integration patterns. And increasingly, these forces move integration beyond the control of central IT.
The challenge for integration today: how we enable the innovators across the organization to use integration capabilities to meet their requirements yet retain an IT landscape we can manage. Let’s talk about the two key audiences involved.
Developers and power users
Modern application developers rapidly prototype creative ideas to reach new markets for the business. They need access to data from multiple sources within and beyond the company in real-time. These developers expose data as APIs so that their applications bring a compelling user experience.
The risk is that developers will write reams of new code to connect data and applications. And so will the next application development team. And the next. Anyone who has tried to unpick the decades-old problems of point-to-point integration will recognize where this is going.
Business power users drive innovation by using new capabilities from modern SaaS applications. These business power users access multiple SaaS applications daily and regularly introduce new ways to use those systems.
Business teams need to be able to make separate systems feel more connected, without having to constantly copy information from one source to another. They may find isolated tools to perform those integrations, perhaps provided independently by each of the SaaS vendors they use. The complexities will pile up. Before long, it could become impossible to unpick all the weird and wonderful ways those applications have been connected.
Neither of these groups have time to work through waterfall enterprise planning to engage with an IT team to perform those integrations. They need to be empowered to do it themselves. But they need to be empowered to do it in a way that others can understand and manage going into the future.
The answer is decentralized integration. You want to enabling modern application developers as well as business power users to help themselves wherever possible.
How do you help drive self-service integration that won’t break the business? Fundamentally, both groups need two sets of capabilities.
Better runtimes. You need lightweight, simple-to-use, cloud-ready integration runtimes. Modern developers can easily incorporate them into their solutions without needing highly-specialized skills or centralized installations from another team. You need integration runtimes tuned to the needs of microservices architecture. This blog post on the latest enhancements in IBM Integration Bus dives deeper into lightweight runtimes.
Simple SaaS integrations. Look for managed integration software that simply connects common SaaS applications, but helps users define more complex connections as they go. Capabilities like these are part of the growing software segments called integration platform as a service (iPaaS), and integration software as a service (iSaaS). Either may help non-integration specialists to create powerful integrations directly.
IBM has chosen to take a unique approach by coupling both iPaaS and iSaaS into a fluid experience so the simple things stay simple. Users who need a bit more complexity can go further. Interested? Explore more about IBM App Connect here.
Connect your teams, too
Finally, both groups of users need to be able to collaborate on solutions with one another. Neither should work in a silo. Your application developers should be able to make an integration available to any business user. Just one example in action: IBM offers a model for tight collaboration by allowing the integrations in IBM Integration Bus to be introduced as simple triggers and actions within IBM App Connect.
In summary, IBM Cloud Integration caters to multiple user groups by providing capabilities that can be used independently by teams. At the same time, it helps user groups converge on common techniques and patterns of integration. It also builds cohesion and collaboration across teams. Finally it offers IT the opportunity to analyze and manage the landscape in a unified way to help deliver business innovation faster.
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