- Getting information into a SaaS system. Back-end systems contain some of the most valuable corporate assets in a company as they often represent many decades of business knowledge and operational experience. For the SaaS system to be useful from the start, the information contained in back-end systems must be migrated into the new SaaS solution
- Synchronizing information between SaaS and back-end systems. Back-end systems are most likely to be the systems of record for critical corporate information about customers, products, orders, etc. SaaS solutions need to synchronize information with the systems of record so the company can have a single, accurate and real-time view of this information. While dealing with different data formats and complex workflows is challenging, these integrations also must be secure, reliable and provide complete visibility
- Extracting information from a SaaS system. Most companies generate a wide variety of operational and business intelligence (BI) reports based on data from multiple systems. While SaaS solutions offer reporting capability, this functionality is often limited. Therefore, information from the new SaaS application must be easily transferable into existing reporting and BI applications
Traditional Integration Approaches: A Poor Fit for SaaS
Traditionally, companies had just two choices for solving application integration problems — buy complex software or write custom code. The complex software approach evolved to meet the needs of large enterprises and provides complex functionality to solve BPM, BAM and EAI problems. But this rich functionality makes these software platforms very expensive to procure, install, deploy and maintain.
As a consequence, most companies opted to develop custom code for integration, which has become the most widely used integration solution. While custom code provides an immediate fix at a seemingly lower cost, companies quickly realize that maintaining custom code is a labor intensive and time-consuming effort and that the "hidden costs" go well beyond the initial coding. Custom code also requires specialized skills that most IT organizations lack or are already using on other important projects. Finally, custom code requires upfront investments in time and resources that delay the benefits of using a SaaS application.
Solving integration problems with either of these software-based approaches produces results that contradict the benefits expected by companies when they chose a SaaS solution. These integration solutions substantially undermine the value of a SaaS solution, and frustrate users who expect quick results. The poor fit between traditional integration approaches and the requirements of a SaaS environment have created the need for a new breed of integration solution.
Integration Appliances: Designed for Rapid SaaS Integration
Integration appliances are plug-and-play devices designed to remove the complexity and overhead associated with traditional integration solutions. These appliances are gaining in popularity because they result in faster SaaS deployments at lower costs. Fundamentally they achieve this by reducing the complexity of integration by doing only what's needed — connectivity, transformation, workflow and management — to rapidly integrate two or more applications. By distilling application integration problems into these four steps, the need to write any code to implement integration projects is eliminated.
These appliances are also self-contained and come with everything needed to complete integrations in one place. They make no distinction between local and remote applications because they establish connectivity to the end points via native application protocols. The advantage of this approach is that no adapters are required so there is nothing to install or change at the end points. This is significant for integrating with SaaS applications because these applications exist in remote locations where the installation of adaptors is not possible.
These appliances are also flexible, scalable and reusable. Specifically, they can be used for multiple integration projects and for solving problems between any combination of SaaS and on-premise applications. Orchestrations and transformations created for one project can be reused for another project. Integration appliances maintain the benefits of SaaS applications while providing the robust integrations needed by organizations.
Integration Appliances Offer the Same Benefits as SaaS
The ease of using an integration appliance matches the simplicity delivered by a SaaS application. The benefits of integration appliances therefore line up well with a company's expectations of a SaaS environment: