Director, Technology Marketing, SAP

More and more organizations are recognizing the benefits of the cloud—one of which is the ready-to-use applications. The cloud application providers do all the hardware procurement, server administration, software maintenance, OS patches, and application upgrades. In addition, the applications are often updated with new features several times per year allowing the subscribers to benefit from the latest software advances. While this is clearly a savings in time for subscriber IT departments, it does present some new challenges along with the benefits.

One challenge is the ongoing need for integration. While most would agree it is a very good thing that applications in the cloud are updated with new features that are instantly available to subscribers, it does often require adaptation of the integration to other cloud applications or to on-premise applications. The application programming interfaces (APIs) of the cloud applications change as new fields or functions become available or obsolete fields are replaced with new enhancements. Without keeping these integrations current, application silos will form and inconsistent data proliferate. For mission critical applications such as providing your product catalog and availability details to your sales force, this up-to-date integration is critical. Application silos and inconsistent data are nonviable.

As more and more departmental functions are served by new cloud applications, the amount of integration between applications increases.  If you are hard coding the integrations manually point-to-point between applications, then you will quickly build up a brittle system of interdependencies, constantly requiring development effort to keep all of your applications working together and their data consistent. As the number of applications increases, the complexity of the interdependencies grows exponentially. Integration can be centralized with dedicated platforms. Monitoring integration in one place while leveraging reuse and common skillsets, without coding, make it faster and more manageable to keep up with changes. Integration platforms are now available in the cloud as well, allowing setup and execution of complex integration patterns among cloud and on-premises applications, for a simple subscription fee.

A well-thought out integration strategy for how an organization will connect cloud applications up front will save countless hours of effort. As cloud applications continue to grow in number and in importance to an organization, having a clear integration strategy in place will help the organization scale the growing need for integration as the business adapts to new cloud innovations.

Read the latest Oxford Economics study, , to learn how organizations harness the cloud integration challenge and grasp the opportunity of online business networks.

Vice President, Technology Marketing, SAP

Many still see the cloud as just another place to consume software. People sitting in front of screens entering and looking at data, which just happens to no longer be stored in their own basement but in somebody else’s basement. Admittedly, this promises nice savings due to economies of scale on the provider side and reduced IT efforts on the consumer side. At the same time increased use of cloud-based software presents unique challenges and new opportunities.

Let’s look at one major challenge first—integration. Even if you’re only using a handful of cloud applications, you need to make sure that data is in sync between them. You can’t afford outdated contact data in your marketing app. Salespeople need up-to-date pricing and availability in the sales app. Your online catalog needs to contain your latest products with all commercial details.

Ascertaining integration between even a few apps requires a more systematic approach than the import, export and programming interfaces most applications provide out of the box. Integration platforms are now available in the cloud as well, allowing setup and execution of complex integration patterns among cloud and on-premises applications, for a simple subscription fee.

A major opportunity arises from the inherently networked nature of the cloud. It basically adds hosted and shared processing capability to the internet’s universal connectivity—a perfect combination for sophisticated business networks. The consumer already benefits through the use of major social media networks. Now it’s time for businesses to embrace the network effect as well.

Built on solid, elastic, extensible cloud platforms, well integrated with major on-premise and cloud business applications, these new business networks can easily bypass the issues earlier online marketplaces had. They can provide better and cheaper integration, easier onboarding, increased business model flexibility and much lower operating costs than the early B2B marketplaces.

Read the latest Oxford Economics study, , to learn how organizations harness the cloud integration challenge and grasp the opportunity of online business networks.