SaaS Integration Explained – A Beginner’s Guide
Web Development

SaaS Integration Explained – A Beginner’s Guide

By Mainak Biswas February 27, 2015 - 1,513 views

The dependency on cloud model is on a rise as many organizations use it to manage billing, marketing, CRM and analytics in order to streamlines processes. Though organizations across the globe are rapidly introducing cloud-based applications, platforms and infrastructure in their operation portfolio, on-premise applications still play an essential role to manage critical business information.

Among all this, a huge amount of disintegrated data gets accumulated across the departments and multiple applications. Due to this, the investment in cloud applications does not reap expected benefits and targeted return on investment. The solution lies in SaaS integration. Integration of cloud applications and on-premise applications is crucial to run your business successfully.

How SaaS is changing companies

By building, buying or subscribing to an integration solution, many organizations are trying to overcome the inefficiencies and gaps created by using disintegrated systems. SaaS integration can be done at a reasonable price for small-scale organizations. It can also provide departmental solutions for larger enterprises.

Addressing the challenges of orchestration, security, data transformation, data migration, application synchronization, data cleansing and data replication is establishing SaaS integration as a powerful phenomenon. Moreover, customized SaaS integration applications allow integration across social sources and databases as well.

According to Mulesoft/Think strategies survey, 90% of SaaS vendors out of 200 find integration critical for driving their revenue and 89% vendors find it extremely important to win new customers. 31% executives out of 674 surveyed find it challenging to integrate cloud applications with existing on-premise infrastructure according to KPMG research while 33% said the integration cost of SaaS and cloud are too high. The statistics clearly show the rising importance of SaaS integration. It also indicates a rapid growth of cloud infrastructure that created a need for integration. The article below will serve as a guide for beginners to understand SaaS integration.

Common misconceptions about integration

  • Every cloud provider has an API with auto-capable integration. On the contrary, cloud-APIs are long and complicated impeding SaaS integration.
  • SaaS integration can be done with traditional integration capabilities like extract, transform etc without knowing that traditional tools are expensive, demands a lot of skill and incompatible with the cloud interface.
  • Integration is not necessary until you have a couple of cloud-based applications. It is often too late to act as you unnecessarily pile up uncontrollable amount of data.

Complexities in integration

SaaS integration is easier said than done for many inexperienced business owners as most of them consider custom coding as a viable option. Custom coding does help to create connections quickly with an added flexibility to meet specific business requirements. For smaller businesses, it may sound correct.

But as the business starts growing, custom coding makes integration a challenge. Point-to-point infrastructure increases in complexity leading to a loss of business agility and scalability. Multiple point connections become difficult to manage owing to their frequent update requirement to newer versions of API. Apart from that, for most businesses, integration is never the core competency. Hiring talent and resources to manage integration significantly adds to your cost of production.

Other challenges may include:

  • Smooth transformation of data from on-premise system to cloud
  • Maintaining equivalent data security as in on-premise system
  • Compatible connections to facilitate data movement and interaction between the two systems
  • Maneuvering data flow to maintain system integrity and availability of right data at the right time

Cloud silos

Information silos are created across the organization when data is stored on different servers and data centers unable to interact with each other. As the data multiplies due to new applications, the efficiency of the organization and resource utilization reduces.

Though the problem of silos is not new to developers as seen in on-premise system, silos are beginning to emerge in the cloud now. Cloud silos are prone to massive multiplication due to easy deployment of cloud applications resulting in loads of fragmented data.

Cloud applications supporting social media and other web-based applications have made non IT-staff of the organization highly capable to take advantage of cloud-based services. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the nuances of data sharing, security and integration. Overtime, the amount of data created grows to an uncontrollable level, creating what we call cloud silos. And they can only be dealt through a consistent approach towards integration.

Key considerations for SaaS integration

  • Developers should adopt standard integration practices rather than ad hoc practices for a smoother integration.
  • Always follow a strict disciplinary code to integrate a complex application portfolio.
  • The integration does not have to be comprehensive at the start. Many organizations take it gradually by moving on-premise departmental functions to SaaS model.
  • Form a well-planned strategy and standardized methodology to overcome the challenges of integration.
  • Integration strategy should work for all sources of application data whether in-house or cloud, behind or outside the enterprise firewall.
  • Thoroughly inspect the integration capabilities before buying a service.
  • Use multi-technology approach towards integration based on predefined criteria.
  • Document the integration approach every time you integrate for consultation for subsequent projects.
  • SaaS vendor technology should be evaluated for its capability to transform and secure data and provide solutions. Vendor should be able to expose data in a standardized format for use by integration service provider.

What’s in store for your business with SaaS integration?

SaaS integration is extremely useful to your organization for the following ways:

1. It helps you in updating and synchronizing specific business processes such as customer/product master synchronization or opportunity to order.

2. It can integrate data between cloud applications and SaaS platforms with your on-premise application databases and files.

3. It delivers self-service cloud integration and SaaS integration while still allowing your organization to keep a control.

4. SaaS integration helps you to maximize value of your cloud computing investment by ensuring the timeliness of data delivery.

5. It ensures that your data is readily available wherever and whenever required irrespective of the original location of the data.

6. It ensures that your data is fully synchronized across the cloud and on-premise systems.

7. It helps in minimizing risk and reducing errors by integrating your cloud applications with your existing on-premise data infrastructure.

8. It allows you to build, manage and share custom data integration services within the cloud.

9. It gives you the ability to choose from a wide range of prepackaged endpoints and plug-ins for cloud applications, databases, files and social networking platforms for a flexible solution.

10. It allows you to exchange information with partners and suppliers in real-time using APIs.

11. Organizations can innovate with SaaS integration without additional investment in IT infrastructure and resources.

Advantages of an integration solution

Developers can be highly productive with drag and drop graphical interface of integration solution. It saves the cost of hiring additional talent for integration maintenance. Users can have aaccess to pre-built integration solution reducing the time to live for SaaS integration. Users have instant API connectivity to various applications.

Lower maintenance
Most of the integration solutions have a centralized management console that helps the users to gain more visibility and control over the integration. It even makes it easier to diagnose and troubleshoot issues as and when they occur. It allows the use to manage integration through a cloud platform curtailing the need to maintain a copy of software, manage new releases and updates. Cost and time savings allow the developers to focus on the core business of the company.

Custom coding impedes the integration capability in the longer run to rising complexity. But subscribing the right integration solution offers both flexibility and scalability to your business. Organizations become capable to develop SaaS and on-premise application integration and deploy it anywhere. Integrations run on a stable platform based on multi-tenant integration runtime.

Looking ahead

SaaS integration is the need of the hour. Previously, SaaS vendors, due to their incapability, have redirected customers to integration service providers. The same has created a gap in the service delivery due to incomprehensive approach. More and more SaaS vendors are now preparing themselves to provide integration solution.

There are pricing models that change with scale, volume or number of users but the users must be aware of the pricing scales offered by integration service provide to account them in the budget. Besides that, as we notice a sudden growth of SaaS applications within an organization, the need for data integration of SaaS and on-premise applications has doubled.

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