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Integration cloud - A Q&A with Derek Thompson

(Image credit: Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

Gartner’s recent global IT spend forecast specifically identified iPaaS as a key driver behind increased IT infrastructure spend. What do you see as behind this market growth?

Nine in ten (89 per cent) organisations experience drawbacks as a result of poor integration, with three fifths (59 per cent) describing it as their “Achilles heel”. Half believe poor integration is holding back their organisation.

Integration should act as a fundamental enabler of digital transformation – yet when it’s time consuming, difficult to deploy and lacking in agility, it can quickly become a headache.

Digital transformation is still a high priority for many businesses, but it’s not just about changing out technology and bringing in shiny new apps. Thriving in the digital era requires new collaboration methods, business processes and best practices. The companies that we work with are using our platform to speed many types of transformation initiatives, from workforce transformation and operations optimisation to IT delivery acceleration and unified digital experience, and even adoption of IoT technologies.

Our integration Platform-as-a-Service platform accelerates connections by making it faster and easier to unify data, systems, devices, applications, processes and people. When everything is connected, then information, interactions and innovations can flow speedily and seamlessly through a digital ecosystem. It is for this reason why we believe Gartner and other such analysts have forecast such growth in the space.

Cloud migration is a major challenge for enterprises today, with legacy systems still playing a key role in IT architectures. How is Boomi helping to address this?

Modernising IT infrastructure is a high priority for nearly every enterprise today. With legacy software often holding them back, many organisations are seeking to operate faster while foregoing typically expensive upgrade cycles.

This modernisation could include anything from moving to cloud, integrating new apps, rationalising existing apps, performing integrations and developing APIs quickly – with key benefits of such investments including the break down of silos and improved data transparency.

The Boomi platform enables organisations to migrate or connect their existing infrastructure to new, best-of-breed cloud applications, delivering more efficient operations by reducing costs, extending investments, and streamlining processes.

Integration has long been seen as the ‘plumbing’ behind IT? Is this perception changing with the kind of technologies it’s now enabling like IoT?

Perception change is always a process, but our customers are increasingly using integration to solve some of the most complex and deep-rooted business challenges. Take North Sea Ports, a private port responsible for safe traffic and commercial business in the Dutch ports Vlissingen and Terneuzen and Belgium port Genta, for example.

Before working with Boomi, the registration of vessels entering and exiting the port was a manual process. Registration was conducted by visually inspecting the vessels in the port, filling out a form and manually entering the data into the harbour management system. It was prone to errors.

This process has now been digitised, using IoT, GPS and cargo sensor-data retrieved from ships in the direct port’s proximity. Our partner, Nalta, built a platform using our technology to collect, store and connect the sensor-data of the IoT platform to an already existing port management system. Leveraging data from both these platforms, 25 per cent more ships can register, resulting in an increase of revenue and safety. Even more remarkably this result was achieved within the first 30 days of launch.

What are the most important factors in deploying a successful cloud integration model?

There are two key characteristics of all successful cloud integration models – being cloud-native, low-code. The vast majority of IT is moving to the cloud, the economic reasons for which are clear. The cloud eliminates large capital costs and all the complexities of maintaining software on your own. But cloud-washed - defined as on-premise software rebranded as cloud software - is not sufficient. By providing cloud-native solutions, the full benefits of the cloud can be delivered to customers.

Low-code is also a factor necessary to provide a unified platform of capabilities that address the full scope of integration challenges facing today’s digital businesses. In many regards, low-code is perhaps the essential capability of modern integration cloud. There are certainly other options out there –old legacy and new enterprise service buses (ESBs), for example. However, where these fall foul of iPaaS is their speed and that’s the core requirement of today’s digital business – if you can’t move fast, you will fail.

What other considerations would you take into account for a business hoping to deploy such a model?

An integration cloud is the core technology for connecting any, and all applications and data. Implicit in this role is that an integration cloud is open and vendor neutral. No business can afford vendor lock-in for integration. A business cannot balance its corporate needs with the needs of its customer without having freedom of choice in selecting best-of-breed applications And how can that business support applications from other competing vendors (in this case, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle to name a few)? Open cloud is so vital.

Core integration – connecting applications to other applications – is where it should all start for integration cloud. However, just connecting siloed cloud or on-premise data isn’t enough – the full end-to-end workflow needs to be brought into the equation.

We’re now over a year on from GDPR. How does integration help organisations maintain a GDPR compliant approach to data?

It’s unlikely that any single technology or technique can fulfil all GDPR requirements. Regardless, data and application integration are critical to responding to the GDPR. Businesses will want to address data silos by integrating disparate data sources and enforcing data governance rules to ensure data is trusted and removed when there is no legitimate purpose to keep it.

If your organisation doesn’t have strong integration capabilities, it could struggle to address the data governance demands of the GDPR. Fortunately, modern integration technology has come a long way.

Using a unified integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), an organisation can rapidly and efficiently build out integrations through a low-code, drag-and-drop development environment. Data quality can also be assured through native master data management (MDM) capabilities. The best of today’s cloud-based integration platforms can also support application programming interface (API) management for connecting to external data sources.

Derek Thompson, VP of EMEA, Dell Boomi