Cloud integration presents challenges and opportunities


Cloud technology presents a compelling value for expanding businesses due to the platform's scalability and flexibility. This is one of the reasons it's not particularly surprising that interest in cloud-based integration solutions is growing. Ovum researchers predicted this market would grow 31 percent annually from 2012 to 2018, reaching a total value of $3.7 billion. But what does that mean for companies adopting these solutions?

A look at the cloud integration market

cloud technology, b2b integration cloudOne of the reasons the cloud creates potential for business value is the subscription pricing model, where businesses can select the service that best fits them and pay a monthly fee rather than upfront hardware and licensing costs. This is an often cited advantage for small businesses, but larger enterprises have used the technology as they explore new avenues for revenue. The platform's scalability also has the potential to accelerated IT-centric B2B integration tasks. As a result, analysts noted a focus on integration-as-a-service solutions, which allow companies to manage integration flows. Although early adopters were primarily interested in application integration for their SaaS deployments, the market for cloud integration platforms that bring together both on-premise and SaaS systems has also grown. From Ovum's data, there are a few reasons companies look toward cloud-based integration solutions:

  • Shorter time-to-deployment
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Cost effectiveness at large scale
  • Streamlined application integration and API management

Since many businesses are already investing in cloud technology, from basic storage services to robust customer relationship management suites, it seemingly makes sense to let the cloud handle integration. However, the often-cited advantages of lower costs and simple IT service delivery are not always fully realized, given the complexity of implementing cloud solutions in the first place. For context, KPMG research found that the cost of implementing cloud technology was higher than expected for 33 percent of all survey respondents. Additionally, companies had difficulty integrating cloud architecture with their legacy systems.

"Implementation and  integration challenges are critically important to overcome as – if they are not adequately addressed – they can threaten both the ROI and business benefits of cloud, particularly as adoption levels increase and pull in more core and strategic applications and systems," said KPMG principal advisor Steven Salmon.

Consideration for business challenges

As these studies illustrate, the cloud presents significant business opportunity, but it is not always easy to access the technology's potential. Implementation is one core challenge, but the first step in a comprehensive strategy is deciding on which B2B integration solution fits an organization's unique needs. Considering even just the cloud-based integration market is becoming more diverse, this is much easier said than done.

For example, Ovum's researchers concluded that a convergence of multiple integration approaches was responsible for differences in market performance between different types of solutions. As IT vendors attempt to meet growing demands, it is likely they will start venturing into new territory by outfitting their existing solutions with new features and functionality. This may be good from a choice perspective, but it could also flood the market with suboptimal technology. And, as happened with the cloudwashing trend - in which IT service providers labeled their offerings as "cloud" without really delivering on the technology's true potential - the challenge will be to separate solutions that meet business needs from those that emerged as a result of market-driven hype.

There are two core challenges at the heart of many of these issues: complexity and a lack of sufficient expertise to manage this complexity. Companies of all sizes can face talent sourcing issues when investing in new projects, as many require specialized knowledge and may even necessitate business process and paradigm shifts. The issue emerges in technology as ubiquitous as the cloud, making implementation more expensive and more complex than many stakeholders realize. A lack of B2B integrator solution expertise can similarly lead to inefficient business processes and fail to achieve effective communication between corporate entities following deployment.

Every business faces unique B2B integration challenges, which is why the one-size-fits-all approach has declined in favor of strategies that take the company's specific environment into account. A thorough evaluation of business goals, IT requirements and expertise necessary will need to answer key questions about the organization's IT environments as well as those of its partners while establishing core business objectives to determine metrics for monitoring success.

To learn how B2B cloud integration can be customized for your business needs, please view our free research brief on how to get started building a case for your B2B integration in the cloud: