Category Archives: Cloud Application Integration
With Informatica Cloud, we’ve long tracked the growth of the various cloud apps and its adoption in the enterprise. Common business patterns – such as opportunity-to-order, employee onboarding, data migration and business intelligence – that once took place solely on-premises are now being conducted both in the cloud and on-premises.
The fact is that we are well on our way to a world where our business needs are best met by a mix of on-premises and cloud applications. Regardless of what we do or make, we can no longer get away with just on-premises applications – or at least not for long. As we become more reliant on cloud services, such as those offered by Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, NetSuite, Workday, we are embracing the reality of a new hybrid world, and the imperative for simpler integration it demands.
So, as the ground shifts beneath us, moving us toward the hybrid world, we, as business and IT users, are left standing with a choice: Continue to seek solutions in our existing on-premises integration stacks, or go beyond, to find them with the newer and simpler cloud solution. Let us briefly look at five business patterns we’ve been tracking.
One of the first things we’ve noticed with the hybrid environment is the incredible frequency with which data is moved back and forth between the on-premises and cloud environments. We call this the data integration pattern, and it is best represented by getting data, such as price list or inventory from Oracle E-Business into a cloud app so that the actual user of the cloud app can view the most updated information. Here the data (usually master data) is copied toserves a certain purpose. Data Integration also involves the typical needs of data to be transformed before it can be inserted or updated. The understanding of metadata and data models of the involved applications is key to do this effectively and repeatedly.
The second is the application integration pattern, or the real time transaction flow between your on-premises and cloud environment, where you have business processes and services that need to communicate with one another. Here, the data needs to be referenced in real time for a knowledge worker to take action.
The third, data warehousing in the cloud, is an emerging pattern that is gaining importance for both mid- and large-size companies. In this pattern, businesses are moving massive amounts of data in bulk from both on-premises and cloud sources into a cloud data warehouse, such as Amazon Redshift, for BI analysis.
The fourth, the Internet of Things (IOT) pattern, is also emerging and is becoming more important, especially as new technologies and products, such as Nest, enable us to push streaming data (sensor data, web logs, etc.) and combine them with other cloud and on-premises data sources into a cloud data store. Often the data is unstructured and hence it is critical for an integration platform to effectively deal with unstructured data.
The fifth and final pattern, API integration, is gaining prominence in the cloud. Here, an on-premise or cloud application exposes the data or service as an external API that can be consumed directly by applications or by a higher-level composite app in an orchestration.
While there are certainly different approaches to the challenges brought by Hybrid IT, cloud integration is often best-suited to solving them.
First, while the integration problems are more or less similar to the on-premise world, the patterns now overlap between cloud and on-premise. Second, integration responsibility is now picked up at the edge, closer to the users, whom we call “citizen integrators”. Third, time to market and agility demands that any integration platform you work with can live up to your expectations of speed. There are no longer multiyear integration initiatives in the era of the cloud. Finally, the same values that made cloud application adoption attractive (such as time-to-value, manageability, low operational overhead) also apply to cloud integration.
One of the most important forces driving cloud adoption is the need for companies to put more power into hands of the business user. These users often need to access data in other systems and they are quite comfortable going through the motions of doing so without actually being aware that they are performing integration. We call this class of users ‘Citizen Integrators’. For example, if a user uploads an excel file to Salesforce, it’s not something they would call as “integration”. It is an out-of-the-box action that is integrated with their user experience and is simple to use from a tooling point of view and oftentimes native within the application they are working with.
Cloud Integration Convergence is driving many integration use cases. The most common integration – such as employee onboarding – can span multiple integration patterns. It involves data integration, application integration and often data warehousing for business intelligence. If we agree that doing this in the cloud makes sense, the question is whether you need three different integration stacks in the cloud for each integration pattern. And even if you have three different stacks, what if an integration flow involves the comingling of multiple patterns? What we are noticing is a single Cloud Integration platform to address more and more of these use cases and also providing the tooling for both a Citizen Integrator as well as an experienced Integration Developer.
The bottom line is that in the new hybrid world we are seeing a convergence, where the industry is moving towards streamlined and lighter weight solutions that can handle multiple patterns with one platform.
The concept of Cloud Integration Convergence is an important one and we have built its imperatives into our products. With our cloud integration platform, we combine the ability to handle any integration pattern with an easy-to-use interface that empowers citizen integrators, and frees integration developers for more rigorous projects. And because we’re Informatica, we’ve designed it to work in tandem with PowerCenter, which means anything you’ve developed for PowerCenter can be leveraged for Informatica Cloud and vice versa thereby fulfilling Informatica’s promise of Map Once, Deploy Anywhere.
In closing, I invite you to visit us at the Informatica booth at Oracle Open World in booth #3512 in Moscone West. I’ll be there with some of my colleagues, and we would be happy to meet and talk with you about your experiences and challenges with the new Hybrid IT world.
What I love about the cloud is it has something of value to offer practically any government organization, regardless of size, maturity, point of view, approach. Even for the most conservative IT shops, there are use cases that just plain make sense. And with the growing availability of FEDRAMP certified offerings, it’s becoming easier to procure. But, thinking realistically, for reasons of law, budget, time, architecture, we know the cloud will not be the solution for every public sector problem. Some applications, some data will never leave your agency’s premises. And here in lies the new complexity. You have applications and data on-prem. You have applications and data in the cloud. And you have business requirements that require these apps to work together, to share data.
So, now that you have a hybrid environment, what can you do about? Let’s face it, we can talk about technology, architecture and approaches all day long, but, it always comes down to this, what should be done with the data. You need answers to questions such as; Is it safe? Is it accessible? It is reliable? How do I know if the integrity has been compromised? What about the quality? How error-prone is the data? How complete is the data? How do we manage it across this new hybrid landscape? How can I get data from a public cloud application to my on-prem data warehouse? How can I leverage the flexibility of public IaaS to build a new application that will need access to data that is also required for an on-prem legacy application?
I know many government IT professional are wrestling with these questions and seeking solutions. So, here’s an interesting thought. Most of these questions are not exactly new, they are just taking on the added context of the cloud. Prior to the cloud, many agencies discovered answers in the form of a data integration platform. The platform is used to ensure every application, every user has access to the data they need to perform their mission or job. I think of it this way. The platform is a “standardized” abstraction layer that ensures all your data gets to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, in the form it needs to be in. There are hundreds of government IT shops using such an approach.
Here’s the good news. This approach to integrating data can be extended to include the cloud. Imagine placing “agents” in all the places where your data needs to live, the agents capable of communicating with each other to integrate, alter or move data. Now add to this the idea of a cloud-based remote control that allows you to control all the functions of the agents. Using such a platform now enables your agency to tie on-prem systems to cloud systems, minimizing the effect of having multiple silos of information. Now government workers and warfighters will have the ability to more quickly get complete, accurate data, regardless of where it originates and citizens will benefit from more effectively delivered services.
How would such an approach change your ideas on how to leverage the cloud for your agency? If you live near the Washington, DC area, you may wish to drop in on the Government Cloud Computing and Data Center Conference & Expo. One of my colleagues, Ronen Schwartz will be discussing this topic. For those not in the vicinity, you can learn more here.
Informatica Cloud Summer ’14 Release Breaks Down Barriers with Unified Data Integration and Application Integration for Real Time and Bulk Patterns
This past week, Informatica Cloud marked an important milestone with the Summer 2014 release of the Informatica Cloud platform. This was the 20th Cloud release, and I am extremely proud of what our team has accomplished.
“SDL’s vision is to help our customers use data insights to create meaningful experiences, regardless of where or how the engagement occurs. It’s multilingual, multichannel and on a global scale. Being able to deliver the right information at the right time to the right customer with Informatica Cloud Summer 2014 is critical to our business and will continue to set us apart from our competition.”
– Paul Harris, Global Business Applications Director, SDL Pic
When I joined Informatica Cloud, I knew that it had the broadest cloud integration portfolio in the marketplace: leading data integration and analytic capabilities for bulk integration, comprehensive cloud master data management and test data management, and over a hundred connectors for cloud apps, enterprise systems and legacy data sources.. all delivered in a self-service design with point-and-click wizards for citizen integrators, without the need for complex and costly manual custom coding.
But, I also learned that our broad portfolio belies another structural advantage: because of Informatica Cloud’s unique, unified platform architecture, it has the ability to surface application (or real time) integration capabilities alongside its data integration capabilities with shared metadata across real time and batch workflows.
With the Summer 2014 release, we’ve brought our application integration capabilities to the forefront. We now provide the most-complete cloud app integration capability in the marketplace. With a design environment that’s meant not for just developers but also line of business IT, now app admins can also build real time process workflows that cut across on-premise and cloud and include built-in human workflows. And with the capability to translate these process workflows instantly into mobile apps for iPhone and Android mobile devices, we’re not just setting ourselves apart but also giving customers the unique capabilities they need for their increasingly mobile employees.
“Schneider’s strategic initiative to improve front-office performance relied on recording and measuring sales person engagement in real time on any mobile device or desktop. The enhanced real time cloud application integration features of Informatica Cloud Summer 2014 makes it all possible and was key to the success of a highly visible and transformative initiative.”
– Mark Nardella, Global Sales Process Director, Schneider Electric SE
With this release, we’re also giving customers the ability to create workflows around data sharing that mix and match batch and real time integration patterns. This is really important. Because unlike the past, where you had to choose between batch and real time, in today’s world of on-premise, cloud-based, transactional and social data, you’re now more than ever having to deal with both real time interactions and the processing of large volumes of data. For example, let’s surmise a typical scenario these days at high-end retail stores. Using a clienteling iPad app, the sales rep looks up bulk purchase history and inventory availability data in SAP, confirms availability and delivery date, and then processes the customer’s order via real time integration with NetSuite. And if you ask any customer, having a single workflow to unify all of that for instant and actionable insights is a huge advantage.
“Our industry demands absolute efficiency, speed and trust when dealing with financial information, and the new cloud application integration feature in the latest release of Informatica Cloud will help us service our customers more effectively by delivering the data they require in a timely fashion. Keeping call-times to a minimum and improving customer satisfaction in real time.”
– Kimberly Jansen, Director CRM, Misys PLC
We’ve also included some exciting new Vibe Integration packages or VIPs. VIPs deliver pre-built business process mappings between front-office and back-office applications. The Summer 2014 release includes new bidirectional VIPs for Siebel to Salesforce and SAP to Salesforce that make it easier for customers to connect their Salesforce with these mission-critical business applications.
And lastly, but not least importantly, the release includes a critical upgrade to our API Framework that provides the Informatica Cloud iPaaS end-to-end support for connectivity to any company’s internal or external APIs. With the newly available API creation, definition and consumption patterns, developers or citizen integrators can now easily expose integrations as APIs and users can consume them via integration workflows or apps, without the need for any additional custom code.
The features and capabilities released this summer are available to all existing Informatica Cloud customers, and everyone else through our free 30-day trial offer.
Since the survey was published, many enterprises have, indeed, leveraged the cloud to host business data in both IaaS and SaaS incarnations. Overall, there seems to be two types of enterprises: First are the enterprises that get the value of data integration. They leverage the value of cloud-based systems, and do not create additional data silos. Second are the enterprises that build cloud-based data silos without a sound data integration strategy, and thus take a few steps backward, in terms of effectively leveraging enterprise data.
There are facts about data integration that most in enterprise IT don’t yet understand, and the use of cloud-based resources actually makes things worse. The shame of it all is that, with a bit of work and some investment, the value should come back to the enterprises 10 to 20 times over. Let’s consider the facts.
Fact 1: Implement new systems, such as those being stood up on public cloud platforms, and any data integration investment comes back 10 to 20 fold. The focus is typically too much on cost and not enough on the benefit, when building a data integration strategy and investing in data integration technology.
Many in enterprise IT point out that their problem domain is unique, and thus their circumstances need special consideration. While I always perform domain-specific calculations, the patterns of value typically remain the same. You should determine the metrics that are right for your enterprise, but the positive values will be fairly consistent, with some varying degrees.
Fact 2: It’s not just about data moving from place-to-place, it’s also about the proper management of data. This includes a central understanding of data semantics (metadata), and a place to manage a “single version of the truth” when it comes to dealing massive amounts of distributed data that enterprises must typically manage, and now they are also distributed within public clouds.
Most of those who manage enterprise data, cloud or no-cloud, have no common mechanism to deal with the meaning of the data, or even the physical location of the data. While data integration is about moving data from place to place to support core business processes, it should come with a way to manage the data as well. This means understanding, protecting, governing, and leveraging the enterprise data, both locally and within public cloud providers.
Fact 3: Some data belongs on clouds, and some data belongs in the enterprise. Those in enterprise IT have either pushed back on cloud computing, stating that data outside the firewall is a bad idea due to security, performance, legal issues…you name it. Others try to move all data to the cloud. The point of value is somewhere in between.
The fact of the matter is that the public cloud is not the right fit for all data. Enterprise IT must carefully consider the tradeoff between cloud-based and in-house, including performance, security, compliance, etc.. Finding the best location for the data is the same problem we’ve dealt with for years. Now we have cloud computing as an option. Work from your requirements to the target platform, and you’ll find what I’ve found: Cloud is a fit some of the time, but not all of the time.
SAP’s Jam social platform has generated a great deal of buzz since its release last May – and for good reason. As detailed by Alan Lepofsky in his coverage for ZDNet, the new Jam reboot included the kind of things, such as out-of-the-box integration, workflow templates and simplified developer tools, that make both IT and business users very happy.
However, the complexity of SAP’s Business Suite (or ECC as it’s called) does not easily lend itself to integration with other applications. The code underlying it is built on a proprietary language called ABAP – a combination of COBOL and Open SQL with some object-oriented features– that requires specialized knowledge and skill not easily found outside of the SAP ecosystem. Up until now, the typical integration project required the involvement of a specialized SAP consultant to develop custom ABAP code or map complex BAPI/IDoc structures as well as a BASIS administrator to transport the ABAP code from development to QA to production. The result was expensive and manually intensive. Integration projects took a few months or longer to complete and were not agile enough to handle ongoing requirements or even field changes.
Today, Informatica Cloud offers business a more innovative approach to SAP data extraction – ultimately, promoting agile development and enabling rapid deployment with the following three important features.
Automatically Generating ABAP Code
At the core of Informatica’s solution is the Cloud Connector for SAP. While the face of the Connector is a simple, wizard-based, drag-and-drop interface, under the hood it uses a Remote Function Call (RFC) to dynamically generate ABAP code (based on user choices) to connect with SAP and access the data through the application layer.
Drag and Drop Design Palette
The wizard guides the user through the steps necessary to extract the data from SAP and send it to any application where it is needed. Using Informatica Cloud’s drag-and-drop design palette, one can simply choose SAP – like any other application endpoint – and select what is needed to connect to the target, without ever having write specialized code.
Because of the dynamically generated ABAP code, SaaS application administrators trying to connect to SAP don’t have to deal with the SAP transports (and the lengthy development cycle) for each extract, reducing the time from months to weeks for an individual project, as well as the load on the BASIS administrators. The increased agility enables end users to respond to business demands by acquiring related data extracts, field and feature changes and/or additions – in near real time. Informatica also reduces the load on both the admin and the server – even further by eliminating the need for transports and sending the data in packets, and by running the extracts in the background. And since no data is staged or buffered on the SAP server, there is never a risk of compromising the system’s or online users’ performance.
Speedy Development Through Vibe Integration Packages
Informatica’s solution also includes a technology bundle to speed up development time and reduce the user’s learning curve. The bundle, or Informatica Vibe integration package, consists of downloadable templates that help the user to understand and use the complex SAP interfaces. Future roadmap releases will contain resources for additional SAS endpoints.
In his review mentioned above in the opening, Lepofsky notes the importance of integration and the partner ecosystem to the Jam platform. The same can be said of the SAP Business Suite and the specialized LOB cloud apps that orbit it. Without ready and real-time access to SAP’s data, even the most feature-rich app is of little use to anyone. With Informatica’s Cloud Connector for SAP, business users, like Informatica customer Addivant, now have a simple and efficient way to solve the most pressing problems presented by SAP to cloud app integration.
In the journey from a single-purpose cloud CRM app to the behemoth that it is today, Salesforce has made many smart acquisitions. However, the recent purchase of RelateIQ may have just been its most ingenious. Although a relatively small startup, RelateIQ has gained a big reputation for its innovative use of data science and predictive analytics, which would be highly beneficial to Salesforce customers.
As relevant from the acquisition, there is little doubt that the cloud application world is making a tectonic shift to data science and the appetite for Big Data to be pieced together to fuel the highly desired 360-degree view is only growing stronger.
But while looking ahead is certainly important, those of us who live in the present have much work yet still to accomplish in the here and now. For many, that means figuring out the best way to leverage data integration strategies and the Salesforce platform to gain actionable intelligence for our sales, marketing and CRM projects – today. Up until recently, this has involved manual, IT-heavy processes.
We need look no further than three common use cases where typical data integration strategies and technologies fail today’s business users:
Automated Metadata Discovery
The first, and perhaps most frustrating, has to do with discovering related objects. For example, objects, such as Accounts, don’t exist in a vacuum. They have related objects such as Contacts that can provide the business user – be it a salesperson or customer service manager, with context of the customer.
Now, during the typical data-integration process, these related objects are obscured from view because most integration technologies in the market today cannot automatically recognize the object metadata that could potentially relate all of the customer data together. The result is an incomplete view of the customer in Salesforce, and a lost opportunity to leverage the platform’s capability to strengthen a relationship or close a deal.
The Informatica Cloud platform is engineered ground up to be aware of the application ecosystem API and understand its metadata. As a result, our mapping engine can automatically discover metadata and relate objects to one another. This automated metadata discovery gives business users the ability to discover, choose and bring all of the related objects together into one mapping flow. Now, with a just a few clicks, business users, can quickly piece together relevant information in Salesforce and take the appropriate action.
Bulk Preparation of Data
The second instance where most data integration solutions typically fall short is with respect to the bulk preparation of data for analytic runs prior to the data transformation process. With the majority of Line-of-Business (LOB) applications now being run in the cloud, the typical business user has multiple terabytes of cloud data that either need to be warehoused on-premise or in the cloud, for a BI app to perform its analytics.
As a result, the best practice for bringing in data for analytics requires the ability to select and aggregate multiple data records from multiple data sources into a single batch, to speed up transformation and loading and – ultimately – intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, advanced transformations such as aggregations are something that is simply beyond the capabilities of most other integration technologies. Instead, most bring the data in one record or message at time, inhibiting speedy data loading and delivery of critical intelligence to business users when they need it most.
Alternatively, Informatica has leveraged its intellectual property in the market-leading data integration product, PowerCenter, and developed data aggregation transformation functionality within Informatica Cloud. This enables business users to pick a select group of important data points from multiple data sources – for example, country or dollar size of revenue opportunities – to aggregate and quickly process huge volumes in a single batch.
In-App Business Accelerators
Similar to what we’ve experienced with the mobile iOS and Android platforms, there recently has been an explosion of new, single-purpose business applications being developed and released for the cloud. While the platform-specific mobile model is predicated on and has flourished because of the “build it and they will come” premise, the paradigm does not work in the same way for cloud-based applications that are trying to become a platform.
The reason for this is that, unlike with iOS and Android platforms, in the cloud world, business users have a main LOB application that they are familiar with and rely on packaged integrations to bring in from other LOB cloud applications. However, with Salesforce extending its reach to become a cloud platform, the center of data gravity is shifting towards it being used for more than just CRM and the success of this depends upon these packaged integrations. Up until now, these integrations have just consisted of sample code and have been incredibly complex (and IT-heavy) to build and very cumbersome to use. As a result, business users lack the agility to easily customize fields or their workflows to match their unique business processes. Ultimately, the packages that were intended to accelerate business ended up inhibiting it.
Informatica Cloud’s Vibe Integration Packages (or VIPs) have made the promise of the integration package as a business accelerator into a reality, for all business users. Unlike sample code, VIPs are sophisticated templates that encapsulate the intelligence or logic of how you integrate the data between apps. While VIPs abstract complexity to give users out-of-the box integration, their pre-built mapping also provides great flexibility. Now, with just a few keystrokes, business users can map custom fields or leverage their unique business model into their Salesforce workflows.
A few paragraphs back I began this discussion with the recent acquisition of RelateIQ by Salesforce. While we can make an educated guess as to what that will bring in the future, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that, at present, Salesforce’s completeness as a platform – and source of meaningful analytics – requires something in addition to run your relevant business applications and solutions through it. A complete iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) solution such as Informatica Cloud has the power to make the vision into reality. Informatica enables this through the meta-data rich platform for data discovery, Industry leading data and application integration capabilities and business accelerators that put the power back in the hands of citizen application integrators and business users.
Join our webinar August 14 to learn more: Informatica Cloud Summer 2014: The Most Complete iPaaS
The mainstream use of SaaS applications as part of the cloud strategies in many enterprises continues to rise. Initially led by LOB IT (lines of business, apps IT), SaaS deployments now have central IT (such as Integration Competency Centers) personnel extensively involved. This shift stems from the need to develop strategies around hybrid application deployments – environments that include integrations between cloud and on-premise applications.
The entire breadth of cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground integration scenarios necessitates interacting with the publicly available APIs, cloud services, and internal web services. The end goal is to enable secure, consistent data access on enterprise apps wherein any cloud, or on-premise application is accessible through a tablet or smartphone, in an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.
A key necessity for hybrid application deployments is the concept of “adaptive integration” within any integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS). Any cloud service integration that claims to have iPaaS capabilities needs to have integration features that connect data, applications, and processes, as well as have governance and API management functionality. The iPaaS must also run on a multi-tenant infrastructure and be available on-premise at times.
You can learn more about adaptive integration, how the iPaaS impacts it, and hybrid application strategies in our recorded webinar, Enabling Hybrid Application Strategies through Cloud Service Integration, featuring Gartner Vice-President and Fellow, Massimo Pezzini, and Informatica Senior Vice-President of Data Integration, Ash Kulkarni. Key topics covered will include:
- How SaaS adoption is driving the need for hybrid integration
- Why the mobilization of the enterprise means a stricter criteria for an iPaaS
- How Everton Football Club in the English Premier League gained major customer insights by using Informatica Cloud
- What “Adaptive Integration” and the Internet of Things have in store for us
Now in its third year (2012, 2013), The State of Salesforce Annual Review continues to be the most comprehensive report on the Salesforce ecosystem. Based on the data from over 1,000 global Salesforce users, this report highlights how companies are using the Salesforce platform, where resources are being allocated, and where industry hype meets reality. Over the past three years, the report has evolved much like the technology, shifting and transforming to address recent advancements, and well as tracking longitudinal trends in the space.
We’ve found that key integration partners like Informatica Cloud continue to grow in importance within the Salesforce ecosystem. Beyond the core platform offerings from Salesforce, third-party apps and integration technologies have received considerable attention as companies look to extend the value of their initial investments and unite systems. The need to sync multiple platforms and applications is an emerging need in the Salesforce ecosystem—which will be highlighted in the 2014 report.
As Salesforce usage expands, so does our approach to survey execution. In line with this evolution, here’s what we’ve learned over the last three years from data collection:
Functions, Departments Make a Difference
Sales, Marketing, IT, and Service all have their own needs and pain points. As Salesforce moves quickly across the enterprise, we want to recognize the values, priorities, and investments by each department. Not only are the primary clouds for each function at different stages of maturity, but the ways in which each department uses their cloud are unique. We anticipate discovery of how enterprises are collaborating across functions and clouds.
Focus on Region
As our international data set continues to grow we are investing in regionalized reports for the US, UK, France, and Australia. While we saw indications of differences between each region in last year’s survey, they were not statistically significant.
Customer Engagement is a Top Priority
Everyone agrees that customer engagement is important, but what are companies actually doing about it? A section on predictive analytics and questions about engagement specific to departments has been included in this year’s survey. We suspect that the recent trend of companies empowering employees with a combination of data and mobile will be validated in the survey results.
Variation Across Industries
As an added bonus, we will build a report targeting specific insights from the Financial Services industry.
We Need Your Help
Our dataset depends on input from Salesforce users spanning all functions, roles, industries, and regions. Every response matters. Please take 15 minutes to share your Salesforce experiences, and you will receive a personalized report, comparing your responses to the aggregate survey results.