Businesses are under increasing pressure to integrate their systems in order to improve processes, enhance the experience for staff and customers, streamline the supply chain and future-proof their operations. But everyone knows this is costly, takes a long time to get right and involves hiring or outsourcing to teams with highly specialised technical knowledge.

On top of this, companies have to maintain the highest levels of security across all data exchanges at the same time as abiding by data protection legislation. With so many tools and services being used across an enterprise, trying to maintain security across all systems can be a huge challenge.

APIs have taken us some way towards simplifying the integration process but,in reality, they’re not effective enough on their own for enterprise-wide integration. Plus, APIs are constantly having to be developed to link new applications.

Integration in the cloud

The cloud or ‘as a service’ concept has completely revolutionised how technology is purchased and deployed within organisations. But integration – often the key to bringing digital transformation projects to fruition – is still perceived as something that needs to be done on premise, and is a process that is costly, both financially and from a resource perspective.

Now, Integration Capability as a Service (ICaaS) has emerged to speed up digital transformation and slash the time and costs involved with integration projects.

Copying behaviours

By using a pre-built, cloud-based integration platform, businesses can cut up to 90% of the prohibitive costs and time involved with integrating data sources and applications – massively reducing the reliance on specialist integration skills.

With an integration platform already in place, new integration services can be developed quickly via the deployment of configuration and transformation files.

ICaaS platforms are built on a foundation of patterns each fulfilling a specific integration behaviour – such as Assured Delivery, Request/Response, Distributed Assured Delivery and Orchestration. Pre-building these patterns, means IT teams don’t need to recreate the wheel each time.

As an example, services such as RetrieveCustomerDetails & RetrieveEmployeeDetails both adhere to the Request/Response pattern of behaviour. By deploying separate configuration data for each service to control the flow of data across the ICaaS platform, the same code base is used to ensure consistency of behaviour

To ensure consistency of operation, the same building blocks micro-services are used to construct these behavioural patterns, including:

* Configuration – used to control the process functions

* Authorisation – to determine if the user is authorised to use the service

* Validation – to ensure the input data is in the expected format

* Transformation – to convert the output data into the correct format

* Routing – to ensure the information goes to the correct consumer

* Audit – to maintain a record of the data content

* Exception Handling – to ensure all exceptions are recorded consistently

Beyond APIs

The benefit of all of this is that adding new integration services to an ICaaS platform becomes a straightforward task. All that’s needed is configuration data to define how the service works, validation information to ensure that the input data is in the expected format, and transformation details to get the data into the format required by end users.

Because it allows interfaces to be reused and it employs pre-built connectors, a cloud-based integration platform results in shorter times to production.

It also helps to protect digital assets. Data is transferred securely, and it’s easy to employ data governance and access control rules as well as keeping control of integration. The platform means that failures can be swiftly detected and monitored all the way through to resolution.

Ultimately, it can make life easier for staff too, by ensuring that the correct data is always delivered to the appropriate person at the right time to allow them to work effectively. Gartner has stated that ‘digital transformation is intensifying demands for seamless integration across application and information infrastructures’. Cloud-based integration eases that path towards digital transformation, saving time, money and resources without compromise.