Tuesday’s Tip: SaaS – Integration Advice

Published on October 28, 2008 by R "Ray" Wang

Continued interest in software as a service (SaaS) stems from the pay as you go pricing, constant stream of innovation, rapid deployment options, and the ability to do an end run around IT.  As the number of options proliferate, enterprises will increasingly lean on SaaS as the mission critical system.  Thus, end users need an enterprise apps strategy for SaaS that addresses the “I” word – Integration.  The requirements and leadership for integration will lead to the pragmatic realization that SaaS can no longer be ignored by the IT department.  As organizations brace for the proliferation of SaaS procurements integration should focus on:

  • Data mapping – as data moves from one system to another, data must be transformed accurately.  More importantly, service and related meta data are cataloged into a repository for discovery by management tools and development tools.
  • Business process orchestration – granularity of web services must be harmonized so that the overall process flow is seamless among various systems.  Integration services actively manage service access, execution and quality of service.
  • Quality of service – Like SOA, QoS metrics ensure that the information flow was delivered to the right system at the right time for the right person.  Characteristics such as security, transactions, performance, style of service interaction, etc. are explicitly identified and specified for each service

A few key solutions providers to watch out for in the SaaS integration space include:

  • Blue Wolf Group – a system integrator with an Integration as a Service (IaaS) offering
  • Boomi – a SaaS integration layer services company
  • Cast Iron Systems – a software based integration appliance (i.e. hardware)
  • Informatica – a data integration provider with a multi-tenant, cross-enterprise data integration on-demand service
  • Magic Software – a business and process integration provider
  • Pervasive- a data integration provider with an Integration as a Service (IaaS) offering
  • Snap Logic – an open source data integration tool provider

The bottom line.

The successful adoption of SaaS solutions will transform usage from purpose built point solutions to integration into mission critical processes.  The result – SaaS integration will emerge as a key discipline in the overall enterprise app strategies of enterprises who seek to manage a portfolio of provisioned services.

Your POV.

Have you completed a successful SaaS to on-premise integration?  How’d it go?  Was it easier/harder than your on-premise integrations? Feel free to share with me your view points. You can post here or sending me a private email to rwang0@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2008 R Wang. All rights reserved.

  • Ken

    the players will be there. who owns who is the question =) But yes, good questions. Integration is a growing competency and you can expect this to continue to increase in complexity, especially as we go to Cloud Best of Breed Hell. thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!


  • It appears to me that it may be very difficult to determine the difference between the vendors listed in this blog. If one is doing an evaluation of these few vendors mentioned (and do not include Tibco, IBM and so-on), what are the evaluation criteria.

    In addition, one might just throw Mulesoft and Jitterbit into the evaluation. The pupose of a general evaluation set is to select at least two vendors to evaluate deeply. The list of vendors is too long to evaluate them all.

    Then I wonder: Is there a difference in evaluation if I want to write an AJAX application useing RESTapi with MVC from disparate applications and data, and data integration with SnapLogic or Informatica (or Boomie for that matter). What are those criteria?

    Then I wonder: What medium size business on up does not already have EAI middeware? Very few I believe. And of those vendors they have, how extensible into the cloud are they?

    It would be nice to know if some one out there has accomplished this kind of study. If so, I have not been able to find it.

    One final word — if I’m banking my company on an EAI vendor, I want to make sure they will be around tomorrow. The “big dogs” will be there IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft. The “pit bulls” will be there: Tibco, Informatica. What about SnapLogic? What is the value proposition such that they can survive in a very competitive market? Or MuleSoft or even Pervasive.

  • Ellen – Thanks for your comments. You are absolutely right on the large scale of integration. Integration is a big issue not only for best of breed projects, but also for the components of a vendor who’s made significant acquisitions. Curious to what others may have seen in their integration efforts? – Ray

  • Nice article on my favorite topic!

    A few additional comments:

    * Integration is a LARGE LARGE word. It can be viewed as very complex or very simple – for same job(!) depending on the eye of the beholder/experts assisting you.

    The complex part can be so over-daunting to allow integration projects to just get off the rock and get started bringing best of breed solutions (SaaS or non-SaaS) together – functionally or data-wise.

    * Increased profit – If you integrate a SaaS solution with a more popular other solution (SaaS or not) – it’s not only convenient data mapping – user seats go UP! Good biz model for the less-popular SaaS product, and depending on which side you are on, good news or bad news. But the integration makes up for it in value for sure.

    * Authentication and authorization – Perhaps a 4th bullet in your list – in solution requirements and required expertise for any integration project’s success.

    * Agile development – Lessen the “daunting” with rolling deployments, feature bit by bit, with a focus on end goals and continual adjustment with feedback. Don’t wait forever to see some success – with right SIs, you should be able to (the right to) see bit successes *continually*.

  • I have spoken with an early CODA2go customer how continues to use Sage Line50 for back end financial accounting while also using a combination of Salesforce.com/CODA2go for quote to cash processes. Loose couling but productivity gains mostly from the saas part.

  • Hi there, I was looking around for a while searching for information security management system and I happened upon this site and your post regarding Tuesday’s Tip: SaaS – Integration Advice, I will definitely this to my information security management system bookmarks!

  • Hi Ray – thanks for the insight here. One missing point that many Asia Pacific-based organisations have to face with SaaS – particularly in relation to integration, is the huge amount of data back and forth across the pacific ocean that the applications can generate (as most SaaS applications tend to be hosted in the US). Many Asian economies have limited connections to North America – and the cost of data back and forth across the pacific ocean can be considerable. For this very reason Asian economies have led the way in capping data usage on broadband plans for home users, and businesses are also wary of these costs. In fact there are some examples where companies have found it cheaper to go with an on-premise version of software than a hosted one due to the high costs of data traffic. Integration adds further to these costs as this can greatly multiply the data that is sent back and forth across the pacific (i.e. every megabyte of traffic may end up travelling back and forth across the pacific multiple times and generate many more Mbs of traffic – all of which has a cost). Either way, the added costs of data traffic that SaaS and the integration of SaaS with existing apps, needs to be a consideration for companies in the AP region – and until the SaaS providers start to host the solutions locally, we can expect further push back from those economies in Asia where data still carries a significant cost burden.

  • Great insight Ray. Another point to consider when discussing the importance of integrations revolves around the discussion of apps suites vs. best of breed software apps. QuickArrow feels that companies should be able to run their business, on-demand, by picking and choosing the best SaaS applications and technologies. It is then on us to provide seamless integration to their other business critical applications including CRM, ERP, Financials, and HR.

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