Technology has transformed the way that businesses are run and led to the emergence of a new type of company – think about the likes of Uber, Netflix and Citymapper. These disruptors have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible, appealing to consumer expectations for joined-up services and a seamless experience.
These agile start-ups have changed the way the market works, sending a message to the rest on the need to innovate. One reason the disruptors can do this is they don’t have to worry about data stacked anywhere other than the cloud, meaning they can focus on the here and the now. However, the established players have a wealth of historic information that’s been built up over the years and which is spread across the cloud, at the edge or on-premise. Building a company fit for the 21st century requires a holistic view of the business, presenting companies with unique challenges in that there is a need to integrate all of this disparate information.
And so, in the context of today’s landscape, how can the established players disrupt the disruptors?
Why reinvent the wheel?
For consumers of the digital era, experience is everything. They expect newfound convenience and flexibility and will have no problem looking elsewhere if this cannot be provided. This begs the question: how can the traditional players hope to keep up if this is the case?
However, things aren’t as complex as they seem. One reason these new companies can drive such positive results comes down to the fact there is no reliance on legacy databases, and they can take advantage of existing third-party systems. For example, Citymapper leverages open data from the Transport of London to retrieve journey information and provide real-time visibility over transport schedules, allowing customers to make the best choice of journey based on timings. Meanwhile, Uber uses Google’s APIs to run their mapping software and match customers with the drivers closest to them. From there, the data is stored and used to predict supply and demand, as well as set fares.
In both cases, these services have been built on existing integrations, meaning they don’t run into the same problems as many of the established players. On the other hand, heritage companies rely on systems that they have created over the years which are stored and siloed across multiple data sources, meaning innovation is blocked as a result. Ultimately, organisations must integrate if they are to drive innovation – after all, why reinvent the wheel?
Old meets new: hybrid integration
We’re living in a period where information is key, and where companies in every industry are inundated with data from all sides. And this is only set to rise, with IDC predicting that the global datasphere will grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025. In terms of how this is stored, many organisations have initiated cloud-first policies, meaning no new data should be stored in their data centres. The reasons for this drive to the cloud are numerous given the number of business benefits. For example, the cloud provides unlimited storage and accessibility from anywhere in the world.
While some companies already do everything in the cloud, the vast quantities of data collated by heritage organisations is stored across multiple data sources. It is therefore likely that these organisations will always have some systems stacked in heritage servers as a result of the costs involved, the data’s complexity and the inability to replicate it in the cloud.
This means there is a need to integrate data and applications stored on-premise, in the cloud and between the two. This is where hybrid integration comes into play. It removes the need to relocate legacy information from on-premise sites and creates new systems to enhance efficiencies.
The integration challenges
Clearly, hybrid integration must be on the agenda for established companies if they are to drive success in the digital world. But for all the benefits, there is no shortage of challenges that organisations must overcome when it comes to hybrid integration.
For a start, connecting existing systems with cloud applications is highly complex for established companies, whose applications are spread disparately. For example, these companies have data stored on-premise, in SaaS applications and are sharing data and documents with partner organisations. With the majority of integration platforms lacking the capabilities to integrate all of these sources, companies must ensure they invest in solutions which can connect their existing applications to a cloud landscape.
Elsewhere, the proliferation of connected devices brings new challenges in itself. With organisations estimated to manage over 50 billion devices by 2020, businesses must ensure their integration technologies can link IoT devices directly with business applications and the workflows they connect. What’s more, these technologies need to be able to quickly connect devices over any network and provide device conditioning, real-time analytics and dashboards.
Integrate to innovate
Hybrid integration presents businesses with newfound opportunities by enabling them to connect existing data sources with cloud applications. Those companies which fail to act risk falling behind as agile start-ups leverage existing APIs to enhance their products and services.
The challenge therefore centres around how heritage companies can keep up with the competition. These businesses must think about the long-term issues if they are to overcome their integration challenges. Companies that adapt quickly will not only avoid being disrupted by nimble competitors but will truly benefit from these changes. By combining hybrid integration platforms with enterprise integration technologies, organisations can succeed in addressing the complex issues they run into on their integration projects.
Sue Cameron, Head of Integration, Software AG