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No matter how big your company is, integrating platforms can create major headaches and threaten your IT investments. Luckily, new solutions are being designed to ease the burden and reduce the risks.
Next to concerns over security, system integration has probably been the technical issue that has produced the most gray hair for CIOs and other C-suite executives.
When you have to integrate the platforms of two vendors, those vendors don't always cooperate—especially if they're market competitors. It gets worse if you decide to leave the platform (and the services) of one provider altogether and move to an alternate solution. The provider you're leaving won't be much inclined to cooperate.
Then there are the "black box" system integrations, when you have to take a body of legacy system code and try to determine (often through deduction) what certain software routines are doing, hoping you're integrating this code in the correct way. It's not uncommon for companies to find that they have to fail back to the old solutions and try again to make the integration work.
The repercussions from failed system integrations go far beyond IT. For companies that are onboarding new corporate acquisitions, an inability to timely integrate processes and systems between organizations can generate extreme disconnects and even threaten the new corporate investments.
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For companies with large supply chain networks that depend upon many small vendors or mom-and-pop shops for components and subassemblies that are placed into end products, at least some degree of systems integration enables the passing of purchase orders, work orders, shipping documents, work in progress information, design changes, and other critical data needed to meet the shortened timeframes for delivery that end customers now expect. And when the task involves thousands of companies all over the world, integration is no small feat.
Finally, there are companies that are moving their on-premises computing to hybrid computing architectures that combine elements of public and private cloud with on-premises IT assets. Integration is again paramount—and if you want a new application from a new cloud provider, you have to be able to quickly plug into the new solution and find ways information from this new platform can be sent and received by systems throughout your organization.
New integration tools
So how do you foolproof system integration and shorten the time to integrate? How do you ensure that small companies in your supply chain can plug into your enterprise information network? And if you are a small company without a dedicated IT staff, how do you integrate at all?
The answer may lie in some of the recent solutions being targeted at the problem. One such solution is Maestrano, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud integration provider.
"We deliver connectivity technology that in effect can democratize access to business applications," said Stephane Ibos, Maestrano CEO. "This allows enterprises to equip their business partners of all sizes with the same sophisticated app and data integration that was previously available to only the largest organizations."
SMEs/SMBs that want to connect their Salesforce information and pass it to another application in another public cloud can do this by using Maestrano's Enterprise Services Bus (ESB) platform without having to develop any APIs.
"What we provide is a white-labeled PaaS marketplace of cloud applications and services that are automatically connected and that share data," Ibos said. "The product is out of the box and preconfigured, and it can be deployed on premises or in public or private clouds."
Tools like this can eliminate upwards of 80 percent of the integration work that companies may be doing now do. There may still be another 10 to 20 percent of the integration work that has to be done by hand if the company is using custom or customized applications. However, even in these cases, the risks and the work of integration can be greatly reduced.
For small companies lacking internal expertise and running generic applications, these tools can be a lifesaver. For large enterprises acquiring new companies and suppliers, integration efforts may also be greatly streamlined. In either case, it is a relief to CIOs and others in the C-suite to see tools come online that can help to cope with the ever-present challenge of system integration: getting systems to talk to each other.