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Cloud Integration (#3): Where in the cloud (or not) should the integration platform be?

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

 

cloud gears.jpgIntegration plays a pivotal role in the transformation of an enterprise's operations through the adoption of cloud services and technologies.  A good integration solution provides the fundamental capabilities needed to rapidly weave together different services and application components across a hybrid environment, while at the same time providing the visibility and control needed to manage the overall integration landscape.

 

Most enterprises will already have an integration solution based upon existing investments in one or more integration products deployed in their data centers.  As applications and services are moved into cloud environments, some questions emerge:  Where should the integration platform be?  Should we continue to use our existing integration solution or should we deploy something in the cloud?  The answer, like so many IT architecture questions is “it depends.”  It depends on the size, frequency, nature, sensitivity, and criticality of the information and events being carried across the integration.

 

When only a few apps are moved to the cloud or few cloud services are consumed, continuing to use an enterprise's existing integration middleware offers a reasonable starting point.  Existing integrations can remain unchanged and connections with cloud-based apps and services allow them to be integrated with those in the data center.  Apps and services in the cloud can also be integrated with each other via the existing integration middleware, although at the cost of traversing the network twice.

 

As more apps and services are operated in the cloud and the volume of interactions between them increases, a point may be reached when network latency and costs render this approach problematic (i.e. bringing all integration traffic back through the existing integration middleware).  This is when deploying an integration platform in the cloud can provide the solution.

 

Deploying the integration platform in the cloud can bring other benefits.  For example, if the integration products are designed to scale horizontally, then deploying them on a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service will allow them to dynamically scale along with the apps and services they integrate.  Over time, transformation of the enterprise’s apps and services may see the majority of them operating in a cloud environment.   At this stage, the integration platform may become a candidate for full migration to run solely in the cloud.

 

The role of gateways

At HP, our cloud integration approach describes two logical components: platforms and gateways.  Platforms are focused upon integration within a domain and gateways focus upon integration between domains.  Gateways provide critical security, policy enforcement, traffic management and other capabilities that are essential for safe integration across domain boundaries.  Many gateway products also offer sufficient "platform" functionality to support a degree of integration of apps and services within a domain.  Using a gateway running in the cloud in this way can provide a suitable interim step between pulling all integration back through a data center based platform, and implementing a "full" platform in the cloud.

 

iPaaS

The options described thus far have considered scenarios in which the enterprise owns, installs, operates and manages its own integration middleware stack.  However, a new option is emerging: Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS).  There are a number of vendors offering iPaaS services.  The nature of these rapidly emerging services varies considerably, but they essentially offer cloud-hosted, managed, integration services, charged on some variation of a per-usage basis.  Likewise, the benefits of using a cloud iPaaS also vary but can include:

  • Ready to use integration capabilities ("subscribe and use")
  • Pay for what you use
  • Controlled scaling in response to demand
  • Managed operations
  • Managed updates, backups, and archiving 

If an iPaaS is hosted in a third party cloud there is the potential to run into the double-network transition issue discussed earlier.  iPaaS vendors can mitigate network latency costs by hosting their services at the same physical location used to deliver the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)/Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) services that are hosting the integrated apps and services.

 

There is one other integration platform option that is worth considering in this overall context.  Many IaaS providers also offer a range of supporting services (such as message queue services) that can be used for simple in-cloud integration.  Because they are coupled with the IaaS environment, these services can perform well and are easy to access.

 

Ultimately, it's likely that the optimum cloud integration solution will comprise a range of integration components, distributed across the hybrid environment.  While many existing integration products can fulfil cloud integration needs, the emerging group of iPaaS offerings may bring some important benefits to cloud integration.

 

What are your experiences in integrating apps and services in the cloud?  I'd be interested in hearing your experiences, both good and bad, in this rapidly evolving environment.

 

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.

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