The future of integration middleware is hybrid

Saurabh Sharma, Senior Analyst, IT Solutions

Many organisations are struggling with integration issues created by the rapid rise of social, mobile, and cloud platforms, and given the persistent time and budget constraints, are not inclined to use traditional integration approaches for hybrid integration scenarios.

IT has no other option but to combine traditional and cloud-based integration approaches to deliver the desired integration capabilities on time and within the allocated budget.

The growing adoption of integration PaaS (iPaaS) solutions signifies the increasing importance of “middleware-as-a-service” and marks the transition of integration from being a “one-to-one” to a “many-to-one” function. An increasing number of integration processes are moving to the cloud, and “hybrid integration middleware” paradigms are no longer uncommon, with this trend expected to become steadily more pervasive.

The rise of hybrid IT calls for a hybrid integration strategy

The rapid rise of cloud services is driving the proliferation of hybrid IT, and workloads are increasingly shifting to the cloud. Organisations are moving beyond the traditional means of connecting with existing and potential customers, and are focusing on enabling new services and functionality through a wide range of social and mobile platforms, with cloud services enabling many of these initiatives.

Hybrid integration, which is characterized by disparity between applications, data formats, deployment models, and the nature of transactions involved, is a complex problem that does not have any simple solution.

IT often does not have the liberty to try to check if traditional integration approaches can meet hybrid integration needs. In addition, persistent budget constraints coupled with the ever-increasing demand for greater agility have forced IT to look for alternatives that deliver the desired integration capabilities on time and within the allocated budget.

None of the integration approaches, including traditional approaches such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and emerging approaches such as iPaaS, is a “silver bullet” for integration.

Organisations can only tackle hybrid integration issues if they develop and implement a strategy that exploits the existing integration infrastructure and fills the gaps in integration capabilities with suitable alternatives that can deliver faster time to value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Integration will gradually shift to the cloud

The global spend on cloud-based integration platforms (including iPaaS solutions) is expected to grow at a CAGR of 31% between 2012 and 2018, reaching $3.7bn by the end of 2018. Ovum estimates that the share of cloud-based integration platforms in the global spend on integration middleware will increase from 6.9% in 2012 to around 20% by the end of 2018.

Interestingly, the share of application integration middleware of the global spend on integration middleware will decrease from 71% in 2012 to 61% by 2018. Over this forecast period, the share of B2B integration middleware of the total spend on integration middleware will decrease by around three percentage points. This is indicative of the convergence of different integration approaches.

Organisations as well as vendors should wake up to the realities of hybrid integration

Organisations should focus on developing and implementing a long-term hybrid integration strategy. The team focusing on integration projects (known as an integration competency center in some organisations) should check if the existing integration infrastructure can support current and imminent integration needs.

While the implementation of a completely new integration strategy from the ground up is not advised, IT should fine-tune the existing strategy to meet integration needs that are beyond the capabilities of traditional integration approaches.

Hybrid integration involves a mix of on-premise, cloud, B2B, social, and mobile integration scenarios of varying complexity, and only a suitable combination of traditional and cloud-based integration platforms can fulfill such complex requirements. A well-planned integration strategy that involves the selection of an approach best suited to each individual integration scenario will ensure that integration projects deliver the desired end-to-end functionality in the most cost-effective and time-efficient way.

The “SOA and iPaaS” combination is well suited to hybrid integration needs. SOA can be used to support data-intensive transactions and low-latency messaging, whereas iPaaS is well suited to the needs of SaaS, relatively less-complex B2B (for example, on-boarding new business partners with applications having disparate data formats), and basic social and mobile integration.

Integration is no longer thought of as a “one-to-one” function, and organisations have shown their preference for integration solutions that address a wide range of integration needs. Many traditional integration vendors have been reluctant to embrace this change, while others have embraced it only half-heartedly as they continue to deliver limited integration capabilities via the cloud.

“Middleware-as-a-service” is not a panacea for all integration issues, but deliberate attempts to hinder the shift of the customer base from traditional licensing models to “as-a-service” models cannot be seen as well-planned strategic moves either.

Integration vendors should focus on balancing business interests with the expectations of user organisations to ensure a good fit between their middleware offerings and the current needs of customers. Vendors that fail to understand these requirements run the risk of losing customers to competitors who are better prepared to meet the requirements of a wider range of users.

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