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Service-Oriented Integration in a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Companies large and small often use a combination of public and private cloud services operating together in a hybrid environment. This type of hybrid environment will become the standard way companies run IT in the future.

For example, a retail company may have a private cloud to support its highly distributed development organization, and it may also use a SaaS (Software as a Service) Human Resources public cloud application. To support its online commerce system, the company may leverage public commercial cloud services to ensure that customer service remains satisfactory during times of peak use, such as holidays. The same company might also create a private cloud application that it makes available to partners linking to its online sites.

When a company selects a hybrid path, the company takes on the responsibility for integration, security, manageability, and governance of the composite environment — including the public services that are included. If a problem arises with the public cloud provider, the responsibility lies with the private cloud provider, not the public service provider.

Now that you have a sense of the different types of cloud services, it’s time to think about how you bring services together — essentially, to integrate those services — to create a hybrid next-generation computing environment that offers the flexibility and cost control organizations are beginning to demand. Standards will have to emerge so that there is a consistent approach to integration across a hybrid computing environment.

A service-oriented approach facilitates integration at the process level. An important element of a flexible hybrid computing environment is the ability to easily link services together to create a virtual environment. Of course, not every element of a computing environment needs to be combined. There are clearly situations where the integration takes place only at the data level so that a data record can be moved from a SaaS environment to a system of record, such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

One of the most important aspects of this service-oriented approach happens at the process level. The systems that have the data you value include business logic and processes that control the way that data is managed. So, you can’t simply connect data elements or business logic together without a deep understanding of how these systems behave from a business process perspective.

It’s helpful, for example, if you can graphically define the flow of data between source and target applications. In this context, you can graphically define all the steps needed to extract purchase order data from your ERP-specific system and send it to a different system (that is, a specific CRM system).

In many ways, the need for integration remains the same as it has been for decades — providing an organization with a clear understanding of the transactions, services, and other critical information about the business. Different business departments typically use applications designed specifically to support their unique business processes. These applications are likely to have unique and independent sources of data.

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