With the increased usage of data analytics to help solve business problems and improve strategies, data integration has come more to the forefront as a critical component of overall technologies for data-savvy organizations. New approaches and technologies for data integration are coming into play to better meet what organizations need, especially to support increased business user access to data management itself.
Over the past several years, data integration services have continued to grow and evolve, thanks largely to the cloud. Tapping into SaaS approaches, the early entrants were data integration as a service and purpose-built or pre-built data integrations.
Data Integration -- as a Service
Data Integration-as-a-service (IaaS) became possible as more organizations made use of SaaS, cloud services and even B2B data exchanges. Business ecosystems began growing in size and complexity thanks to online connectivity, promoting ease-of-access for B2B relationships and interactions. As more data flowed in the cloud, the need and demand for integration picked up momentum. Originally IaaS functioned as an IT-oriented service, mostly in stand-alone instances. But IaaS instances were soon embedded in other cloud services and applications, as well as cloud infrastructure platforms.
The ability to quickly move data to where it is needed must evolve beyond cloud services that only provide basic APIs and web services that still require users to build connections. While leveraging APIs and web services for loosely-coupled integration processes, IaaS rapidly added more sophisticated capabilities such as virtualized data services, governance, REST-ful services, and agile interoperability at multiple levels.
Cloud-based IaaS has since progressed into Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). The data integration services evolution now involves comprehensive platforms that leverage cloud services for the creation and execution of integration processes or flows that connect to systems in the cloud and on premises -- within a single entity or across multiple organizations. Services include critical capabilities: data governance and management, metadata discovery, data quality, transformation rules, agile access to data sources – all delivered with automation and ease-of-deployment as important aspects of the overall platform.
Purpose-Built Data Integrations
As a more narrow approach to integration, purpose-built data integration is designed to meet a specific business need, with pre-defined capabilities bundled in the solution. Frequently purpose-built data integration comes as an appliance. Purpose-built data integration services in the cloud comprise an evolutionary step for making data integration services available to business users, to initiate integrations between specific sources or applications.
Cloud services for purpose-built integrations usually include data replication, migration, and synchronizations for customer data. Typically integrations involve specific SaaS applications like Salesforce.com and Netsuite as "pre-set" sources and targets.
These services work with focused use cases where business users do not have to make lots of decisions about how the integrations will be accomplished. Wizards are employed to walk business users through the process. However, at minimum, business users must have knowledge of the sources and targets, and basic understanding of the data integration task, to work confidently and accurately through the purpose-built approach.
Business Innovation from Data Integration Services
The evolution of data integration services must align dynamically to the business as it changes. Business users require rapid responsiveness to integration needs, through technology that is 'proactively' ready for many use cases that reflect expected and realistic business situations. Innovations for cloud-based data integration services contribute to optimal business performance and to the faster delivery of valuable data that frequently has a short shelf life of relevance.
Data integration services can tap into the rich value of the cloud and how it connects businesses through common services, with business processes providing contextual frameworks. Such data and process agility underpins must-haves for the competitive organization: always-on intelligence, new business opportunities, innovations in products and business models, robust collaborative processes for the ever-growing business ecosystem.
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About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of many business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitiveand on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting