Defining, much less executing, cloud integration isn’t straightforward. At the simplest level, it means bringing together multiple IT environments – on-premise, public and private cloud, a hybrid of the two, and multiple public clouds – multi-cloud.
The purpose of cloud integration is to create a cohesive IT setup, regardless of the underlying environments to provide:
- Flexibility regarding how data is shared, stored, processed and accessed;
- Greater operational efficiency and business agility through easier access to data and faster data analysis to launch and tweak new offers, for example;
- Better customer experience due to better joined-up processes, for instance;
- Modern could-based applications
- Scalability to accommodate rapid changes without having to build capacity that is only used in peak times; and
- Combined cloud applications and on-premises systems to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Cloud migration and integration are not only about doing what you do already but better and for less money. These are desirable, but don’t leverage cloud’s potential of facilitating collaboration between teams by enabling them to combine, process, analyse and act on data in ways that were not previously possible. Integration is integral to accomplishing this, but is a challenging undertaking technically, with many moving parts.
Further, cloud integration is a critical aspect of cloud migration, which is itself part of an enterprise’s overall digital transformation jigsaw, and needs to be viewed in context, not isolation.
Enterprises move data, applications and IT functions to the cloud with the intent of hosting them in the best IT environment. This is based on factors like cost, scalability, performance and security, adopting operational and business models such as Software-as-a Service (SaaS). Moving workloads to the cloud should be done as part of an enterprise’s digitalization strategy that includes the impact on staff and their roles, and realigning resources as well as technology.
Without proper strategy and management for cloud migration, lots of things can go wrong – and quickly. For example, cost is a major driver of moving to the cloud, but while pay-as-you-go cloud services can offer greater flexibility and reduce hardware costs, the overall cost could be much higher than unwary users bargained for.
TechTarget reckons that in 2020, 45% of organizations that ‘lifted and shifted’ applications into the cloud, overprovisioned by as much as 55% in the first 18 months, overspending by up to 70% during that time. Note also lift and shift does not leverage the full advantage of cloud’s native, containerized tech.
Arguably, integration is an even more serious issue than overspending, as well as potentially contributing to it and compounding the issue. In the scramble by businesses of all sizes to gain the advantages of cloud, and especially Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, they have replicated the age-old IT problem of silos.
While the SaaS delivery model makes it easy to access software, the rapidly rising number of SaaS-based applications has created serious integration challenges, in terms of the volume of integrations and their complexity.
Done right, cloud integration ensures business outcomes are greater than the sum of smoothly interoperable parts. Done badly, it prevents the recycling and reuse of IT building blocks and open APIs, and stops internal capabilities and data from being consumed by external – and possibly even internal – parties.
1. Cloud migration
There are many, varied reasons for enterprises wanting to leverage cloud-based resources, including:
- to support real-time applications and services;
- to increase automation in the back office and customer-facing systems;
- to better enable mobile applications; and
- to deploy and scale IT more easily in general.
The CIO must consider:
WHAT are you trying to achieve?
e.g. introduce more back-office automation
WHY do you want to do it?
e.g. enable self-service to improve customer experience and reduce operational cost
WHERE is the integration needed?
e.g. identify interdependencies of systems, processes, data and applications, and that not all of them are suited to a cloud environment, for instance, where low latency is required
HOW to execute?
This is not just about achieving a good solution NOW, but one that can flex and adapt to meet changing needs. HOW cloud integration fits into the wider integration and digital transformation effort is also foundational to success.
Choosing the best option
There are various approaches to cloud migration – the trick is identifying the one that best suits an enterprise’s current needs and offers flexibility for the future. Partnering with an integration specialist can help assess an enterprise’s current situation and clarify the best options to achieve its goals.
For example, legacy virtual machines and base infrastructure can be migrated to multiple cloud providers or they can co-exist with hyperscalers, depending on factors like timeframe, cost, performance, business goals and more.
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