July 19th, 2018
Organizations in Australia and around the world are rapidly adopting cloud applications to manage financials, customers, operations, human resources and more. Yet those systems can’t continue to exist as data islands. Data silos prevent businesses from developing a holistic approach to building a competitive advantage.
As a senior architect on the Dell Boomi Professional Services team in Australia, I’ve worked with dozens of companies that have made the leap from the time-consuming and inflexible integration technologies of the past to faster, more agile integration platform as a service (iPaaS).
These companies are not only looking to survive but very much thrive and grow in the face of globalization and increasing competition. Such developments are triggering a major shift in how business and IT leaders view and utilize integration. This is today’s key challenge facing both IT and business leaders.
Traditionally, stakeholders in most companies have seen integration as a costly, laborious and lengthy exercise. Whether accomplished by manual coding or legacy on-premise middleware, integration has too often been a “black box” that lacks the agility that a modern cloud-based business desperately needs.
A New Path for Integration
I’ve seen first-hand how iPaaS radically improves how organizations can address their integration issues. This shift is also changing the rules of engagement within organizations: how IT and the business work together. The revolutionary advances made possible by iPaaS are affecting employees throughout organizations and giving them much needed new ways for addressing their core technology and business challenges.
- As the CIO, I need to reduce costs and accelerate delivery; integration must align with business cadence and cost expectations.
- As an enterprise architect, I must be able to connect cloud solutions to on-premise applications seamlessly.
- As an integration platform owner, I must be able to say “yes” to business demands and provide an event-driven, low-code platform, accessible from anywhere…without a steep learning curve.
- As a project or product manager, I want the integration team to run at the same speed as my functional sprints.
- As a solution architect, I want to be able to place services and integration capability across diverse Internet and secure network zones.
- As an operations manager, I want full visibility of all integration processes and runtimes from a single console with a platform that allows me to automate and monitor deployments.
- As an integration developer, I want a simple programming model that comes with pre-built components designed specifically for integration.
At a high level, cloud-native iPaaS supplies all these stakeholders with a fast, flexible integration platform to build a connected business.
From my position on the front lines, it’s apparent that success is rooted in three areas — changing architectural and licensing models, improved project engagement, and high-productivity, low-code integration development.
Changing Architectural and Licensing Models
iPaaS eliminates the architectural and licensing restrictions for an enterprise service bus (ESB) or other legacy middleware. For example, a license for on-premise integration software might specify that X number of services need to run on a server with X number of CPUs.
That outdated restriction is at odds with the cloud economy. iPaaS changes the rules of engagement so that integration is not bound by a shared compute platform or a shared CPU licensing model. And it is not constrained to a single place where all integrations must play nicely together.
Our iPaaS lets organizations deploy a Boomi Atom (our integration runtime engine) wherever they wish — in the Boomi cloud, on a public or private cloud, or on an on-premise server. Solution architects can choose how runtimes are used within the integration topology, and deployments can be done independently of vendor-imposed restrictions.
That’s the new baseline for the integration experience. The architectural shift to iPaaS advances the business and IT strategy to provide an “always-on” multichannel digital platform that connects applications, data, processes, people and devices.
Improvements to Project Engagement
iPaaS is also dramatically improving how integration teams engage on projects with application developers and application owners, such as a business manager who wants a mobile app connected to a back-end system.
Historically, many integration projects have been bound to specifications in an internal design document. But even a small revision might trigger a round of coding changes that could be expensive and time-consuming. The old model of integration introduced obtrusive lines of demarcation between integration teams and other stakeholders that could derail results.
iPaaS lets integration developers react with much greater speed and agility to changing business requirements. Integration jobs that might have taken a month of manual coding can be accomplished in days, hours or minutes in a low-code environment. That because a true iPaaS integration cloud eliminates the majority of manual work, letting developers customize the “last mile” of integration as needed.
With iPaaS, integration developers are in better cadence with application developers and the agile development methodology, which emphasizes iterative development that’s generally faster and more flexible than the alternative waterfall model. Integration using iPaaS becomes a business enabler, not a dead weight that can’t be moved.
The Embrace of Low-Code Development
Central to how Boomi iPaaS is changing the rules of engagement is the low-code nature of the Boomi platform. Low-code refers to drag-and-drop, point-and-click capabilities by which developers can visually map out connectivity and utilize prebuilt connectors. It provides a huge productivity gain and accelerates an organization’s digital transformation.
However, low-code doesn’t mean low-capability. Hands-on coding lets developers tackle integration jobs of any complexity across both cloud and on-premise applications. Boomi’s low-code platform supports mainstream API- and event-driven architectures, and allows for concurrency, checkpoint/restart, and exception management. It’s built from the cloud up for secure high-throughput messaging and high availability in demanding enterprise environments.
In addition, the high visibility of integration flows using low-code development tooling eliminates the time-consuming, paper-based design phase of an integration project. Now integration requirements and implementation happen with far less labor. A simple whiteboard session is all iPaaS developers need to quickly build out an integration that can be easily tested and refined in rapid iterations.
Developers still need a common sense approach to appropriate levels of documentation, such as an integration catalog and supporting specifications, but that can be limited to metadata and user story definitions with specific integration mapping rules. A portfolio view of integration via a catalog is preferable to maintaining document templates.
Real-World Success at a Packaged Goods Company
I have seen iPaaS change the rules of engagement for Boomi customers over and over again. One example is from an Australian packaged goods company that needed to switch to a new third-party logistics (3PL) partner for product delivery.
The new 3PL used cloud-based technology with which the packaged goods company needed to integrate. The integrations would automate management of inventory tracking, purchase orders and shipping notifications while synchronizing databases and updates to back-end systems via open APIs.
One option was for the customer to customize its enterprise resource planning (ERP) application to communicate with the 3PL, but that would have been time-consuming and require expensive and specialized expertise. This is where Boomi delivered a much faster, more cost-effective option.
I worked as a Boomi consultant on the project to help guide a customer team that included a business sponsor, business analyst/project manager, technical architect, two developers, a test analyst, a change/release manager, and infrastructure and security personnel.
In its first use of iPaaS, this company experienced collaboration, agility and speed not possible with traditional integration. The company’s developers were able to easily refactor through multiple iterations as requirements evolved. The project was completed comfortably with the customer’s four-month time frame.
This is only one of many examples of how the Boomi integration cloud is revolutionizing how organizations build their connected businesses. Similar benefits await those organizations that adopt iPaaS to accelerate integration, migrate to the cloud and drive digital transformation.
With iPaaS, organizations can rewrite the rules of engagement so that all stakeholders can work together to reap the rewards of the cloud. With an integration cloud in place, companies can develop a holistic approach to achieving business objectives with far greater speed than ever possible. I encourage you to give it a go!
To learn more about how iPaaS and Boomi change the rules of engagement for connected businesses, please contact one of our integration experts today.
About the author: Chris Tribe is an integration architect for Dell Boomi in our Australia, Asia-Pacific region.