Many people see in cloud computing only the people-centric, mobile-first, and analytic-driven applications which can be purchased with a credit card. This would undervalue the transformative power of the cloud.

If your cloud vision is narrowed down to SFA (sales force automation) or even any cloud CRM, then you need to accept that your applications will be siloed and integration with the rest of the business will be ad hoc at best.

A quick fix cloud application can become a long-term business problem when there is no integration between the application and the rest of the organization, especially at a process level.

To truly leverage the cloud for your business, cloud applications need to be considered in conjunction with a modern platform (PaaS) AND flexible integration capabilities. SAP h as taken this kind of holistic portfolio approach (more details ).

Below is one of the classic weather symbols, which as well as expressing typical ambiguity about the forecast, also sums up my approach to the cloud.

In Britain, our changeable weather–and the fact that talking about it is the standard way to open any conversation–means we have an intimate relationship with the weather forecast. And, in Britain, this means the Met Office with their classic symbols. An icon of British design (like the ) which features on the BBC home page, on television, and even on each page of UK passports.

In a previous posting “ ,” I said that I didn’t think that cloud was fundamentally transformative for commerce and was more of an IT strategy. Just like the British weather, I have changed my outlook.  In fact, I think the weather symbol expresses well the symbiotic relationship between business networks and the cloud.

Sometimes in technology we want to delineate between  concepts when in fact they might be two ways of saying the same thing. The promise of the networked economy requires both the flexibility of cloud solutions and the interconnections of a business network.

When I first started in this game, all of the end points of the network were on-premise, though in those days we just called it “software.” It was difficult to keep the customers’ software up to date so it would work with the network. Cloud changed all that. Also, when the market changed, it took time for customers to react because they had customized systems and had to install and test any changes.

There is a symbiotic relationship between Business Networks and Cloud

Cloud solutions are Pre-wired for a business network, and significantly reduce the software engineering challenges and allow for faster innovation.  Between cloud solutions and Business Networks we are seeing rapid feedback loops as each adds value to the other.

Why move to the cloud? As well as the familiar solid arguments around speed, flexibility and cost, I’d add the fact that it’s where everyone else is . You go to the cloud because that’s where you find your suppliers, your customers and other trading partners. You put processes into the cloud that are naturally collaborative, so all parties can interact.

What’s the forecast? Definitely getting brighter.

Switching magically between worlds

Have you ever read a book that takes place in more than one universe or watched a movie in which characters travel between past, present, and future?  Think of Harry Potter approaching the Hogwarts Express via London King’s Cross train station to get over to the world of wizards, or Connor McLeod traveling through the centuries and fighting back the baddies in seamless cuts between the Highlands and New York.

The seamless flow from one scene to the next and the logic of the mechanisms that transport characters between worlds is a fundamental success factor for these kinds of books and movies. If the characters’ travel didn’t make sense, we would be lost and uninterested. We are drawn into stories when the transition logic works well and gates to the future or past are built into the real world with everyday objects.

This analogy often comes to mind when I talk to customers about the cloud. Just as we expect creative and smooth transitions in books and movies, cloud users expect a seamless flow between cloud applications and on-premise or third party cloud–but it’s hard to achieve.

Together, integration & interoperability are the #2  cloud-related pain point (following security), as stated in many research articles like this one recently published in Forbes about .

Integration & interoperability are valid concerns, as cloud vendors often are only able to offer limited:

  1. Experience. We are running the first three miles of a marathon in cloud computing, so there are not many companies in the market who can show successful integration projects on large scale yet.
  2. Business understanding. The early cloud entrepreneurs have been and are still pure cloud vendors. They reflect neither the customer´s on-premise history nor the need to safeguard existing investments–consequently, they prefer a “rip and replace” strategy over integration.
  3. A single hand to shake. Very few vendors deliver cloud (SaaS) solutions + integration tools + integration content + extensibility platform (PaaS) as a unified solution. (SAP is an exception.)

Why integration & interoperability matter

Companies need to avoid information islands and fragmented processes in cloud solutions. Losing enterprise context while moving into the cloud is not an option. Integration across solution boundaries is necessary to prevent application silos. It requires a strategy that encompasses cloud as well as other on-premise solutions. Business users and cloud vendors are acknowledging and responding to this need–a recent survey from shows that 67% of CIOs using cloud applications have already adopted some hybrid tools integrating cloud and on-premise solutions.

Integration is necessary to both business users and IT.

  • Business Users Perspective

Interoperability and integration offer a single source of truth and accurate data; business users can rely on what they see and spend meetings talking about facts and real-time measurements instead of about doubts about data reliability. Faster insights and better decision-making capabilities are what businesses want and need to achieve.

  • IT perspective

A large enterprise runs, on average, between 1,000 and 2,000 applications. Some of the applications will go into the cloud, some are already there, and some may never be migrated. Enterprises adopt SaaS today primarily for commoditized processes such as CRM (Lead2Opportunity, but not Opportunity2Cash), procurement, and HCM (full HCM suite). Companies do not differentiate these processes from their competition and see a value in standardization and best practice sharing. But IT needs to manage governance and control for all of these processes regarding:

    • Data security, privacy,  and compliance
    • Support of complex landscapes
    • Control of data flows
    • Processes working end-to-end
    • Choice of integration technology
    • End-to-end  monitoring and support

What does it require to interoperate cloud solutions?

It is important to separate cloud on-boarding from interoperability.

  • Cloud on-boarding: One-time initial data load from existing systems to the cloud solution
  • Cloud Interoperability: follows on-boarding with continuous upkeep to ensure data is sincrenated and processes are integrated.

Interoperability is clearly superior to the traditional “rip-and-replace” or “stitch-together-with-other-middle ware” approach that many pure cloud vendors take to cloud solutions.

What you should look for in a cloud vendor

  • Point-to-point integration for simpler and highly standardized integration scenarios
  • Integration services that connect systems with pre-packaged integration content in a pure cloud deployment
  • Option to leverage existing infrastructure: On-premise technology and data services with pre-packaged integration content for OnPremise2Cloud via pre-packaged and rapid-deployment solutions
  • Open for re-use of third-party integration providers via a partnership for specific integration scenarios
  • Option to use further third-party integration platforms using our open certification program

Is your cloud vendor considering all of the above? No? Then run away, fast.

Customer Examples…

SAP cloud for customer – A large industrial manufacturer with multiple subsidiaries on different SAP ERP clients needed third-party ERP installations integrated into the flow. The main challenge has been the very tight time frame to achieve a rapid implementation with a small team to integrate accounts, materials, sales quotes, and sales orders.

SAP Cloud for people – A large manufacturing company with SAP ERP, multiple legacy HR, and financial applications worldwide. The goal was a migration from the existing legacy HR system.

    • 120+ third-party interfaces – Integration of third-party cloud solutions
      to SAP Employee Central (EC) and EC Payroll
    • 100% of SAP-to-SAP integration and 30% of total number of required integration covered by prepackaged integration (iFlows)

We learned many lessons with each customer, but the most important has been this co-innovation approach. This is why some SAP cloud releases are up to 80% based on customer feedback: we learn together, and we learn fast.

The SAP cloud portfolio has been designed to serve the hybrid cloud reality. We bring SaaS, integration tools, and integration content together to ensure interoperability for our customers.  At the same time, it delivers on line-of-business AND IT expectations to make them operate together in the cloud.

Focus on interoperability and your business will meet its goals. For further information, download our .

In the closing scene of Highlander, Queen’s “A kind of magic” plays. Cloud integartion and interoperability may sound like magic, but it´s simply the result of four decades of co-innovation between SAP and its leading enterprise business software customers.

Let me know what you think and follow me on Twitter to stay on top of the latest and greatest about cloud computing,

Regards @SDenecken

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Read other relevant blogs:

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- Cloud Extension program

Notes: Original blog appeared on SAP SCN community.

At SAPPHIRE NOW I had the pleasure to participate in a podium discussion with my colleague (member of SAP´s management board) on the topic of clouds, particularly about the differences between public and private cloud. Our experiences co-innovating with customers and partners came out in the discussion.

There are many definitions of public and private clouds, and I think a little simplification is in order for the purpose of this blog. (This is where some of the cloud purists will jump up and down).

1. Private cloud – hosted solutions, often managed by a partner or vendor

2. Public cloud – multi-tenant solutions, managed by the vendor

We know that the move for our customers to the cloud must be a thoughtful evolution. Our strategy centers on leveraging the right mix of cloud, hosted, and on-premise technology. Customers have very specific challenges they are looking to solve and very specific investments they want to leverage. Their starting point on this journey will help define the mix that is right for them.

(predominant deployment models)

But now, lets focus on cloud.

The current heated discussion about cloud security reminds me of an interesting recent on cloud computing from Saugatuck Research. Not much has changed when it comes to customers and the way the cloud is perceived.

Security was and is top of mind for everyone, and rightfully so. I agree with Saugatuck´s conclusion:

Saugatuck believes that the reality of Cloud IT is actually the reverse of popular thought. I believe the growing prevalence of Cloud IT use, including communication and interaction throughout multiple “Internets of things,” can deliver vastly improved security that reduces the risk of data loss and system breaches by improving the ability to secure, monitor, and manage devices and software.

See detailed research here:

Every time we talk with customers, partners, and influencers about cloud computing, we have to start with a definition of cloud. We then discuss how SaaS and PaaS play together. These conversations have led us to believe that there is a symbiotic relationship between them.

Symbiosis (from Greek σύν “together” and βίωσις “ living “) is a close and often long-term interaction between different species , where both benefit from the relationship. How does this relate to the Enterprise usage of cloud services?

Enormous expectations have accompanied the birth of cloud services. Cloud computing is expected to offer an opportunity to be more efficient, agile, and innovative through more effective use of IT investments and faster innovations. If a company wants to launch an innovative new approach, it can use the cloud without having to acquire significant hardware, lowering both time and cost barriers to deployment. People associate the Cloud with innovation and easy-to-understand, user-oriented design.

Cloud delivers business velocity. To understand how it does this, we need to take a deeper look at the building blocks of cloud and how they work together.

Security is the #1 concern for enterprise organizations when making a cloud decision. This issue has been aggravated in our post-Snowden/PRISM world. Security is a serious topic that requires thoughtful discussion.

There are many pressures along the security isobars of IT, and space for value- and business-oriented conversations about cloud services that help businesses become more agile and insightful are necessary.

The SAP Cloud Strategy and Customer Co-Innovation team regularly meets customers to discuss expectations, opportunities, and concerns. Many roundtables, forums, user group meetings, and expert sessions with organizations in various countries helped to shape the thoughts in this blog.

Here is a look at the 3 most important lessons we have learned from our experiences and interaction with customers.

Have you ever used the saying, “two sides of the same coin,” indicating there are two ways of looking at the same thing, maybe two different interpretations of a situation?

If you look at private cloud services, you click on a URL, register yourself, and start enjoying the beauty of an appealing solution experience. Your data persist in the cloud; you can access it from wherever you are and whichever device you might have – the definition of online. This is the freedom of cloud applications in private life – and obviously the shining front of the coin.  Many people now have the same expectation for their work life applications…

However, if you flip this coin over, you might be in for a surprise.