The talk around the IT water cooler is that integration costs are on track to become higher than application costs within five years, with integration becoming more complex and burdensome. But like all predictions, what can we believe? Should we start to prepare for the worst? And, most important of all, who's the one to blame for this problem?
The experts predict that integration hassles are on the horizon. Gartner predicts that:
- By 2018, more than 50% of the cost of implementing 90% of new large systems will be spent on integration
- By 2016, midsize to large companies will spend 33% more on application integration than in 2013*
Ovum also estimates that spending on integration middleware is growing at a compound growth rate of 9.1% between 2012 and 2018, reaching $17.9 billion by the end of 2018.**
Whether you come from the business or IT side of an enterprise, nobody can deny the fact that the introduction of BYOD, the strong use of the cloud and dependency on mobile and social media have all increased the load that IT systems have to bear.
In addition, organizations are increasingly focused on integrating with customers, suppliers and partners. Integrating with external systems adds to the complexity. It's only logical that connecting these disparate systems and adding the glue to make them all integrate seamlessly has to be more complex than it used to be. But does adding in these elements really create an integration Armageddon?
Ovum's Saurabh Sharma says that organizations are now realizing that cloud computing and SaaS can lead to more information silos and greater integration complexity.
"SaaS vendors claim they provide web service APIs to ease the integration between SaaS and on-premise applications but APIs alone cannot ensure seamless interaction," he says.
IBM’s Doug Clark believes that a huge amount of time is spent integrating back office applications such as ERP and finance. Maintaining and integrating these applications swallows a lot of budget and, in the future, Clark predicts that companies will eventually want to integrate ERP and finance with cloud applications.***
One thing for sure is that disparate silos of information will continue to increase, and they will become more complex and abundant with greater care needed to integrate them correctly. Added to this, mobile applications have now moved beyond handset-based systems and are now used to connect to backend databases to pull up information while a user is on the move.
Enterprises are working to integrate BYOD and cloud as well as connecting with supplier customer data. At AIMS Innovation, we've seen that they are engaging in point-to-point integration, which is quick but will only backfire on TCO, complexity and scalability. Point-to-point integration improves the speed of integration but does not provide that strong, robust information flow that's needed to keep systems connected correctly.
With applications such as Hubspot, Salesforce or Zendesk, when you grow as an organization using these products, you need to integrate these systems into your network and you want to do it fast. Many providers have out-of-the-box integrations ready. But this is a less feature-rich form of integration than ones being done by integration engines such as BizTalk, Oracle and IBM. Point-to-point integration is often a "quick-win" but the downside is that you end up with integration spaghetti. It's costly to maintain, not standardized and person dependent.
Do We Have a Solution?
Point-to-point integration will lead to integration chaos — that much is certain. Even with integration engines, the growing use of cloud, BYOD and increased data volume will also lead to integration challenges.
Microsoft and others help by introducing integration platforms as cloud services to better facilitate hybrid /cloud scenarios. They also deliver integration as a service with flexible setup and billing, reducing TCO in a pay-as-you-go model.
Solutions such as monitoring your integration platform or using smart monitoring tools will also help to alleviate this problem. Monitoring is one of the tools that can pinpoint errors and give you granular insight into how each system is functioning, how effectively applications are integrating with each other and where performance is impacted.
Whether integration will become the IT burden that exceeds application costs has yet to be seen. The reality is that it will become more complex and important to organizations and it will emerge as one of the top IT challenges along with downtime and security for enterprises going forward.
Ivar Sagemo is CEO of AIMS Innovation.
* Gartner, Predicts 2013: Application Integration
** Ovum View, Saurabh Sharma, March 1, 2013. Global integration middleware market to hit $17.9 billion by 2018
*** Information Age, December 4, 2012. Cloud brings application integration out of the shadows
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