The limitations of traditional SaaS integration approaches

Time and budget constraints are forcing many organisations to rethink their integration strategy and find a well-aligned solution

Enterprises want seamless integration between their software as a service (SaaS) and on-premise applications.

They have similar expectations for B2B integration scenarios that involve multi-enterprise process automations.

Although traditional integration approaches, including service-oriented architecture (SOA ), custom code development and integration outsourcing, could fulfil such requirements the expenditure and implementation times associated with these approaches are not always in line with the IT budgets and project plans of many organisations.

The necessity of maintaining highly skilled technical staff, for maintenance and upgrading of initial code, means custom code development leads to greater expenditure in the long run. Integration outsourcing adds costs associated with implementation, project management, and maintenance of integration projects to the total cost of ownership (TCO ) equation of SaaS applications.

This is what organisations want to avoid, so the limitations of traditional approaches to SaaS integration are forcing organisations to rethink their integration strategy.

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Lack of effective business-IT coordination

SOA is perhaps the only traditional approach capable of meeting a wide range of integration requirements. However, securing funds is no easy task for IT leaders who complain that line of business leaders have little regard for SOA and are reluctant to commit because they are unsure if SOA -related investments will deliver any business value.

In the past, SOA initiatives were driven by the IT organisation, without any major involvement from the business side of the enterprise, and often delivered outcomes that fell short of expectations. Consequently, SOA quickly gained a reputation as an over-hyped architectural approach that delivers little, if any, business value.

The rapid rise of cloud computing, and in particular of SaaS, is adding to the existing heterogeneity of enterprise application portfolios. Organisations are realising that cloud computing can lead to more information silos and greater integration complexity. Ovum believes that the most prominent driver of SOA adoption is its capability to meet complex integration requirements, including on-premise-to-SaaS integrations and B2B integrations that involve multi-enterprise process automations. There are common scenarios for integration of onpremise and SaaS applications where SOA is a suitable option:

On-premise services (exposed to the cloud) combined with other services to deliver the desired functionalities. Consumption of SaaS functionality by other on-premise and SaaS applications.

SOA and SaaS integration

SOA implementations often involve upfront costs in the form of middleware, hardware, network upgrades, suitable security components and monitoring software. Other costs incurred during deployment include the effort involved in the modification of legacy applications and the costs associated with training IT staff. Most of the benefits of SOA , including service reuse and reduction in the costs of IT, are not immediately realised, and therefore implementations should be seen from a long-term perspective.

The increasing relevance of cloud computing provides IT leaders with a great opportunity to build a stronger business case for SOA

Saurabh Sharma


The increasing relevance of cloud computing provides IT leaders with a great opportunity to build a stronger business case for SOA . This is particularly applicable to organisations that had to abandon their SOA projects due to a lack of commitment from the business side. IT leaders of such organisations should emphasise that SOA -based integration with SOAP (simple object access protocol) or REST (Representation state transfer) web services are options for SaaS integration requirements.

However, a wide-ranging implementation is not always feasible. Organisations that have not yet implemented SOA should consider a lightweight option that provides appropriate means to get more out of their SaaS-related investments. However, IT management must understand that lightweight implementations providing specific functionalities are “good enough” only for the short-term integration requirements.

Why not use standard middleware?

On-premise middleware is ill-suited to the requirements of cloud-to-cloud and intra-cloud integrations. Traditional approaches that involve hosting integration middleware within the enterprise are good enough only for on-premise-to-SaaS integration.

Though this offers easy invocation of remote APIs and greater data security, its limitations in enabling cloud-to-cloud and intra-cloud integrations cannot be ignored.

Integration middleware hosted within the enterprise provides less flexibility of data source access and low visibility of event flow. These approaches also fail to deliver an efficient messaging and queuing capability. Organisations must understand these limitations and should opt for an approach that aligns well with the needs of both on-premise and SaaS integrations.

This is an extract from the Ovum report: Exploring Different Approaches to SaaS Integration. Saurabh Sharma is a senior analyst at Ovum.

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