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Cloud Integration (#2): Is integration in the cloud different?

By:  Andrew Pugsley, Application Transformation Consultant, Hewlett Packard Company

 

cloud gears.jpgDeveloping business solutions in the cloud invariably requires some kind of integration to bring together the services and application components that comprise the solution, and to make it accessible to consumers.

 

We've been doing integration for quite a while now under labels such as: Enterprise Application Integration, Distributed Computing, EDI, Web service and others, including Service-Oriented Architecture (although of course, service-oriented architecture is about so much more than simply integration).  So, when we need to integrate in the cloud, is it just a case of applying the integration solutions that we know and love, or is there something new or different that we need to do? What is different about cloud integration?

 

Naturally, integration challenges will vary according the nature of the cloud scenario you’re addressing, but here are five topics that I’ve encountered:

 

Elasticity: One of the key attractions for using cloud infrastructure services is their ability to support the elastic scaling of application components with changes in service demand.  If you are integrating an application component, the integration solution also needs to be able to elastically scale with it.  

 

Latency: As you distribute application components across a cloud environment, some latency will be introduced across network connections.  In response, cloud solution architectures need to be designed to (1) minimize the latency and (2) minimize the impact of the latency.  Latency can be minimized by using fast network connections, minimizing the processing during connections (firewalls, policy enforcement points, etc.) and minimizing the number of network hops.  Minimizing the impact of latency can be achieved by optimizing the efficiency of connections (i.e. get the data needed for a transaction in a single message rather than multiple messages) or through the use of caching or similar techniques.

 

Security: As soon as business information or processes move outside traditional enterprise boundaries, additional security considerations arise. The many challenges associated with security are both varied and important.  I won’t try to describe them here but they are clearly a critical part of every cloud integration solution.

 

Abstraction: A primary feature of cloud computing is the abstraction that comes with the use of services.  That is, when we consume a service, we don’t know (and don’t need to know) just how that service is implemented.  Everything that we need to know about the service should be included in the service’s description.  The integration challenge that arises with abstraction is that in a cloud world, we are no longer in full control of all aspects or all elements of our business solution.  We cannot make assumptions about how a service is implemented. For example, we can’t assume:

  • A service will never send us an invalid message
  • If a data object changes, that all of the services we aggregate in our solution will change at the same time
  • A consumer will only request an operation for which they are authorized.

 

Policy: As different services and service providers are used to deliver a business solution, there are likely to be additional policies that must be applied.  For example, if there are policies concerning regulatory restrictions governing the geographical/physical location of data, the integration solution will need to play a role in the enforcement of these policies.

 

In some ways, these topics are neither really new, nor are they exclusive to cloud.  However, as we evolve our business solutions to take full advantage of cloud, I think these aspects of cloud integration will demand our attention.  

 

What do you think?  What differences between cloud integration and “traditional” integration have you encountered?

 

Previous blogs in Andrew Pugsley’s Cloud Integration series:

Previous items by Andrew Pugsley:

Related links: 

About the Author

 

Andrew Pugsley.jpgAndrew Pugsley, Application Transformation Consultant, Hewlett Packard Company

Andrew is an experienced Enterprise Architect, recognized for his expertise in Application Transformation, Service-Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing.  He works with global clients across a range of industries with a particular focus upon the Telecommunications sector.

Comments
steven rubin(anon) | ‎03-27-2014 07:08 PM

Andrew,

 

I sincerely appreciate the education you are providing in your two blogs re: Importance of Integration and its Distinct Attributes for Cloud. And the straight forward manner in which you describe.  I wonder if you can now take us further in terms of 1) the tools/methodology/services build-out we've been hearing about the past 18 months with our the AT2C offering applied to enabling and accelerating (automating?) cloud services?; and 2) your take on the question (I've heard clients, technicians and even cloud architects raise) whether we'll see much of traditional legacy applications (SORs) warrant the time and cost to become true cloud-aware (or AT2C will mainly effect integration work along with development of new cloud-ready SOE)?

 

Thank You.

 

Steve

andrew.pugsley | ‎04-09-2014 10:47 AM

Hi Steve,

 

Thanks for your note and sorry for the delay in my reply – I’ve had a few days’ vacation!  Cloud integration plays a critical role in the Application Transformation to Cloud (AT2C) services that you referred to. As suggested in this blog entry, we’re building upon our existing integration services but extending them in the key areas needed to meet the new demands that cloud brings. We’ve also been doing some testing with new integration models – I’ll probably take a look at these in my blog soon.

 

With your second question, I’m tempted to give a consultant’s answer – it depends! We have to remember that an enterprise’s ultimate goal isn’t to be cloud-ware but to ensure that the right systems are in place to realize their current and future business objectives in an optimum way. With this is mind, the answer to your question depends upon what is meant by “true cloud-aware” and it depends upon the architecture of the existing application(s). If being cloud-aware simply requires an application to be able to consume business services from a cloud provider then, minimal “re-interfacing” may be sufficient. If, on the other hand, you want to deploy an application to run on a cloud platform service, operate in an elastic and multi-tenanted way, offer its capabilities as SaaS, and participate in cross-cloud transactions, then much more significant changes to an application may be required and replacement with new "cloud-native" application components may make more sense.

 

Best regards, Andrew.

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