Elevating Your App by Embedding Advanced, REST-ful Cloud Integration
While the great migration to the cloud has created opportunities for practically everyone in tech, no one group stands to benefit from it more than application developers. In partnership with category-leading SaaS companies like Salesforce, NetSuite, Ultimate Software and others, ISVs have not only easy access to open APIs to leverage but also complete marketplaces to establish themselves and exploit for market and mind share. And within those ecosystems, there stands a whole new class of users looking to these applications to solve their specific business problems.
But, as Billy Macinnes, in his July MicroScope article, reminds us, the opportunities come with many challenges, and so far only a few ISVs have risen high enough to truly meet them all. While the article itself is more concerned about where ISVs are headed, Macinnes and the industry experts he references, such as Mike West and Philip Howard, make it clear that no one is going anywhere far without a cloud strategy that meaningfully addresses data integration.
As a business app consumer myself, I too am excited by the possibilities that exist. I am intrigued by the way in which the new applications embrace the user-first ethos and deliver consumer-app-like interfaces and visual experiences. What concerns me is what happens next, once you get beyond the pretty design and actually try to solve the business use case for which the app is intended. This, unfortunately, is where many business apps fail. While most can access data from a single specific application, few can successfully interact with external data coming from multiple sources.
Like many of the challenges (such as licensing and provisioning) faced by today’s ISVs, data integration is something that lies outside of the expertise area of a typical app developer. Let’s say, for example, you’ve just come up with a new way to anticipate customer needs and match it with excess inventory. While the developer expertise and art of the app may be, say, in a new algorithm, the user experience, ultimately, is equally dependent on your ability to surface data – inventory, pricing, SKU numbers, etc. – that may be held in SaaS and on-premises systems and seamlessly marry it – behind the scenes – to cloud-based customer information.
The bottom line is that regardless of the genius behind your idea or user interface, if you can’t feed relevant data into your application and ensure its completeness, quality and security for meaningful consumption, your app will be dead in the water. As a result, app developers are spending an inordinate amount of time – in some cases up to 80% of their development cycle – working through data issues. Even with that, many still get stuck and end up with little more for their effort than a hard lesson in the difficulties of enterprise data integration long understood by every integration developer.
Fortunately, there is a better way: cloud integration.
Cloud integration enables the developer to focus on their app and core business. The ISV can offer cloud integration to its customers as an external resource or as an embedded part of its app. While some may see this as a choice, any ISV looking to provide the best possible user experience has no real option other than to embed the integration services as part of their application.
Look at any successful business app, and chances are you’ll find something that empowers users to work independently, without having to rely on other teams or tools for solutions. Take, for example, the common use case of bringing data into an app via a CSV file. With integration built directly into the app, the user can upload the file and resolve any semantic conflicts herself, with no assistance from IT. Without it, the user is now reliant on others to do his or her job, and ultimately less productive. Clearly, the better experience is the one that provides users with easy access to everything needed – including data from multiple sources – to get the work done themselves. And the most effective way you can do that is by embedding integration into the application.
Now that we’ve settled why cloud integration works best as an embedded capability, let’s take a closer look at how it works within the application context.
With cloud integration embedded into your app, you can essentially work behind the scenes to connect different data sources and incorporate the mapping and workflows between your app and the universe of enterprise data sources. How it accomplishes that is through abstraction. By abstracting connectivity to these data sources, you take the complexities involved with bringing data from an external source – such as SAP or Salesforce – and place it within a well-defined integration template or Vibe Integration Package (VIP). Once these abstractions are defined, you can then, as an application developer, access these templates through REST API and bring the specified data into your application.
While connectivity abstraction and REST APIs are important on their own, like all great pairings, it is only in combination that their true utility is realized. In fact, taken separately, neither is of much value to the application developer. Alone, a REST API can access the raw data type, but without the abstraction, the information is too unintelligible and incomplete to be of any use. And without the REST API, the abstracted data has no way of getting from the source to the application.
The value that REST APIs together with connectivity abstraction bring cannot be overstated, especially when the connectivity can span multiple integration templates. The mechanism for accomplishing integration is, like an automobile transmission, incredibly complex. To give an analogy, just like a car’s shift lever exposes a simple interface to move the gears from Park to Drive, activating a series of complex sensors to make the appropriate motions under the hood, the integration templates allow the user to work with the data in any way they want without ever having to understand or know about the complexities going on underneath.
As the leading cloud integration solution and platform, Informatica Cloud has long recognized the importance of pairing REST APIs and connectivity abstraction.
The first and most important function within our REST API is administration. It enables you to set up your organization and the administration of your users and permissions. The second function allows you to run and monitor integration tasks. And with the third, end users can configure the integration templates themselves, and enforce the business rules to apply for their specific process. You can view the entire set of Informatica Cloud REST API capabilities here.
It is in this last area – integration configurability – where we are truly setting ourselves apart. The Vibe Integration Packages (VIPs) not only abstract backend connectivity but also ensure that the data is complete – with the needed attributes from the underlying apps – and is of high quality and formatted for easy consumption in the end-user application. With the Packages, we’ve put together many of the most common integrations with reusable integration logic that is configurable through a variety of parameters. Our configurable templates enable your app users to customize and fine-tune their integrations – with custom fields, objects, etc. – to meet the specific behavior and functionality of their integrations. For example, the Salesforce to SAP VIP includes all the integration templates you need to solve different business use cases, such as integrating product, order and account information.
With their reusability and groupings encompassing many of the common integration use cases, our Vibe Integration Packages really are revolutionizing work for everyone. Using Informatica Cloud’s Visual Designer, developers can quickly create new, reusable VIPs, with parameterized values, for business users to consume. And SaaS administrators and business analysts can perform complex business integrations in a fraction of the time it took previously, and customize new integrations on the fly, without IT’s help.
More and more, developers are building great-looking apps with even greater aspirations. In many cases, the only thing holding them back is the ability to access back-office data without using external tools and interfaces, or outside assistance. With Informatica Cloud, data integration need no longer take a backseat to design, or anything else. Through our REST API, abstractions and Vibe Integration Packages, we help developers put an end to the compromise on user experience by bringing in the data directly through the application – for the benefit of everyone.