Many enterprise organizations did not invest enough money into integration as they built their cloud or hybrid infrastructures. As if integrating on-premise systems and applications wasn’t tough enough, in today’s cloud era with the rise of hybrid environments, connectivity has only gotten more complicated – especially when combined with the increased speed of deployment. Puppet Labs found that high-performing organizations deploy code 30 times more frequently than their lower-performing counterparts, meaning dev and ops teams are struggling to break down data silos while simultaneously managing constant technology upgrades for line-of-business users.
There’s no doubt that, whether public or private or hybrid, the cloud is now part of most companies’ infrastructures, and its share will only increase. Goldman Sachs estimates that spending on cloud computing infrastructure and platforms is expected to grow at a 30 percent CAGR from 2013 through 2018 compared with 5 percent growth for overall enterprise IT, while Forrester predicts that 25 percent of all software applications purchased will be cloud-based by 2020.
With the speed and agility the cloud imposes on businesses, dev and ops need to come together to look at data integration throughout its entire lifecycle, from developing new apps or services on top of existing apps, all the way to the ongoing service, maintenance and upgrades of those applications. The two teams must join forces to manage this process as one comprehensive integration lifecycle, where dev and ops play equal roles solving for new data integration challenges brought about by hybrid deployments and siloes created by line of business users’ cloud purchasing habits.
Today’s dev and ops teams have to look at data integration as a service, not just a one-off implementation they can hand off. Here are three strategies to help bring the two teams together to jointly manage the data integration lifecycle.
- Assess Current Integration Challenges Collaboratively
Without alignment between dev and ops teams, integration lifecycle can’t be managed successfully. Organizations need to align on the people and process portion first, asking questions like: what systems does each business unit need data from? How likely is it that their needs will change, and how can you plan for a flexible integration as a service? What capabilities will ops need after dev implements the integration?
After reaching agreement, teams will need to jointly assess and select a data integration as a service technology or platform that allows for joint requirement setting, collaboration, testing and ongoing adjustments throughout the lifecycle of the applications. Selecting the right integration platform as a service at the onset is critical to minimize cost, time and wasted dev and ops cycles down the line as business and technology needs change. The most agile integration option typically consists of a plug-and-play, flexible platform that makes use of APIs and also allows for deeper customization down the road.
2.Understand the Four Key Stages of Integration Lifecycle Management
Dev and ops teams are now part of the same cycle dealing with frequent updates and agile product development. It’s no longer about developing, testing and then having ops maintaining, but about a seamless and transparent handoff from dev, to ops and back throughout the entire application and data integration lifecycle.
To capture the most value from disparate organizational data and to minimize ongoing data and application synchronization costs, dev and ops teams need to adopt a joint integration management strategy that accounts for the four distinct phases of data and application connectivity. These include:
3. Design phase. After understanding business use cases and selecting a platform, dev and ops must collaborate on priorities – what near-term functionality can they design for based on the plug-and-play layout, and how can they tackle that low-hanging fruit while maintaining the flexibility to meet future requirements?
By starting with the right technology and a common integration framework, dev and ops teams can design connected core systems and data early on with plug-and-play API connectivity for solutions like CRM and ERP, while maintaining the ability to easily expand functionality with custom/deeper integration capabilities with marketing automation, business intelligence and other apps.
In addition to functional capabilities, the design phase should address performance and scalability by taking into account throughput and latency. This process involves planning to meet performance expectations, even with the customization and extensions users will likely want down the road. Dev and ops should ask themselves questions like: which company systems will be on premise, in the cloud or hybrid? What are the performance, scalability and security tradeoffs of each approach?
- Develop phase. Dev and ops need to work together in the development phase to carefully document key aspects of the integration while building connectivity for specific use cases. This documentation will be critical to the seamless handoff between the two departments, so they both need to be involved in the process. Strategic collaboration and thorough documentation can improve the efficacy of maintenance and debugging activities, help companies adjust to staffing changes and more easily transfer integrations to and from the two teams during the ongoing development and roll-out process.
- Deploy phase. Given that you’ll likely deploy in a hybrid environment, make sure you test both on-premise and cloud integrations to ensure that data is flowing freely. To help test integrations and move them into a production environment, look into staging and production environment tools that streamline the process. Infrastructure costs should also be considered, as they may increase unexpectedly if you don’t watch them throughout the deploy phase.
- Run phase. Continuously monitor to confirm that the data is flowing as designed. If dev and ops selected the right technology platform, the teams won’t have to worry about ongoing API management, because the platform takes care of it.
The right platform will also lower downtime and maintenance costs with a multi-tenant management environment that allows the expert for any given situation to dive into the integration backend or runtime. The platform should also provide ongoing diagnostic reports and proactive alerting to allow ops to home in on potential performance issues.
- Build a Responsive IT model
With dev and ops coming together to take advantage of the speed and agility offered by the cloud, the resulting just-in-time services for businesses are turning IT from a cost center into an innovation center. The data integration lifecycle is another result of the new cloud-shaped world, helping dev and ops teams create a more responsive IT model and allowing them to better meet business needs while driving innovation. While shared environments bring with them an additional element of risk, a responsive IT model is an important step towards both short-term and long-term success in the modern connected enterprise.
These three steps allow dev and ops teams to offer the value, speed, efficiency and opportunity that today’s enterprises require. By adding collaboration and agility at every stage of the integration process to plan, implement, track, debug and update continually, dev and ops teams can scale to respond to the data-driven needs of the business more precisely.
How have you overcome cloud and hybrid application and data connectivity challenges in your organization? Connect with me in the comments below, or on Twitter at @scribesoft.
About the Author/John Joseph
John Joseph, VP of marketing for Scribe Software, earned a master’s degree in business administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT.