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What is cloud integration?

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What is cloud integrationOn the surface, “What is cloud integration?” may sound like a simple question. At its most basic level, cloud integration means bringing multiple cloud environments together, either in a hybrid deployment or as multiple public clouds, so that they can operate as a single, cohesive IT infrastructure for an enterprise.

A deeper dive into this concept, however, reveals that it is anything but basic. Not only are there myriad technical challenges to overcome, but IT executives must also grapple with a number of functionality issues, namely, why do you want to integrate cloud architectures, and what sort of workflows do you want them to support?

The rising demand for cloud integration

The market for hybrid cloud integration platforms is expected to see a 14 percent compound annual growth rate by 2023, according to a Research and Markets report. The drivers of this activity are many and varied. Some organizations are looking to use integrated resources to support real-time applications and services, while others are eyeing the increased automation capabilities for back-office and customer-facing platforms. Integrated clouds also provide better support for mobile applications and offer easier deployment and scalability options across the board.

Small wonder, then, that cloud integration platforms are gaining popularity. But what should CIOs look for in this new branch of IT technology? For one thing, their platform should provide ample protection for data both at rest and in transit. In some areas of the world, primarily Europe, this is not merely smart thinking but a regulatory requirement. Another key capability is the establishment of proper authentication between data controllers and processors, since this is the area that today’s hackers are most likely to target.

Additionally, integration should be comprehensive for all use cases involving the transfer of batch data to enterprise applications. This is particularly important for extremely heavy loads, as when data scientists pull new digital assets into their workflows or marketing teams track real-time events to gain new insights or launch new channels.

Navigating the transition

Ideally, the transition from traditional infrastructure to an integrated cloud should be seamless, with no disruption or downtime, but achieving this requires a number of preparatory steps. These may include establishing high-speed, highly available connectivity and implementing a real-time replication strategy that can mirror services during the migration, even as new data is added to the environment.

One key piece of technology in an integrated cloud architecture is the virtual private network (VPN). Not only can it provide both the speed and flexibility required to move data and applications across distributed architectures, but it can also be implemented with built-in encryption to better secure data in motion.

Enabling sharing and collaboration

Ultimately, however, the purpose of cloud integration is not just to streamline infrastructure or scale up resources, but also to enhance collaboration between knowledge workers. As Mario Moura and Christine Ouyang of IBM point out in a white paper for the Cloud Standards Customer Council, the hybrid cloud’s many hosting and storage options are ideal for sharing data and analytics tools between multiple workers, even those separated by great distances.

Determining exactly how these architectures should be designed is difficult, as each enterprise will have its own requirements and operational goals. Sensitive data should likely be kept in on-premises clouds, as will data that must be rapidly accessed by key employees. High-volume workloads, on the other hand, will mostly go to public clouds, as long as there are policies and systems to ensure proper security.

By just about any measure, an integrated cloud environment is a far more workable solution than multiple disparate clouds. The deeper answer to the question “What is cloud integration?” is that it is the process of preventing the kind of silo-based infrastructure that plagues data centers from being repeated in the cloud.

Cloud integration requires careful planning, and if you lack the skills in-house, working with a trusted partner can help you quickly get your cloud environment fully functional, without costly mistakes along the way. Learn more about finding a non-disruptive path to the cloud for your enterprise.

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