Applications and data are on-premises; applications and data are in the cloud. But the boundaries between these two worlds will blur, or even vanish someday. How do you bring the two together?
That's the question posed in a recent report by Forrester analyst Stefan Ried, Ph.D., who, along with his co-authors (including SOA proponent Randy Heffner), call for a next-generation "hybrid integration" approach that federates different integration silos and topologies, regardless of where they are in relation to the enterprise.
Bringing these worlds together is important, since it's unlikely that enterprises will tear up their on-premises investments to move to the cloud. Yet, it's also a reality that a large number of businesses rely on the cloud for at least some of their capabilities.
Forrester's survey of 1,631 enterprises shows that "only a minority of enterprises plan to replace or have already fully replaced Java and .NET runtime platforms or [business process management] and BRM with cloud platforms." The survey also finds that about one in four are interested in combining business steps located in the cloud and on premises into single processes.
The analysts provide an example of how an integrated process scenario plays out:
"A manufacturing company receives requests for quotation via a cloud-based application and answers these requests with a traditional on-premises product life-cycle management (PLM)/ERP system; the decision to offer discounts might be supported by an analytics application provided from the cloud but will seamlessly appear in the user interface of the ERP system. The boundaries between cloud and on-premises applications will increasingly blur — in the end becoming totally invisible to many business users."
So how do companies get to this hybrid environment, that treats all data and applications, no matter where they're based, equally? It takes new thinking among IT leaders. There will be no single product or solution to address this, since it is more of an architectural problem. Here are some pointers:
- Shift from one-off integration projects to time to market.
- Bring "systems of record” (ERP, finance, control) together with “systems of engagement” (CRM, collaboration).
- Emphasize business value, rather than IT optimization.