by Maneesh Joshi – Senior Director, Product Marketing & Strategy
One would think that spending more than a decade in various aspects of the integration business (9 in engineering, 4 in product marketing, and 1 in solution marketing) would be enough for anyone to become comfortably numb to this space. But that’s not for me which I guess boils down to my engineering brain that incessantly tries to find the perfect solution for every problem. And I strongly believe that the time to “Snap” in that perfect solution has come!
I consider myself lucky that despite being through one massive round of innovation where the integration industry evolved from EAI to SOA, and luckier that I’m bang in the middle of round two. This time around, the heavier protocols such as SOAP are now making way for the lighter weight and more pragmatic cousin called REST (REpresentational State Transfer). Why leave now, I’ve wondered, when integration is finally getting simple enough that businesses can derive rapid value without having to spend millions of dollars on year-long projects? I’ve also wondered what is it about the contemporary times that is driving this second round of innovation. This blog shares my humble perspective. I?d love to hear your thoughts as well.
Experience, age, or just plain cynicism (call it what you may) have taught me that timing has a lot to do with successful adoption of any innovation. The iPhone wouldn’t have been as successful without the preceding advances in rich interactive screen technology, or the SSD technology, or youtube, or the 3G network, or. and the list goes on. In the same way, I’m convinced that there are a slew of technological advancements that have made the integration space ripe for disruption. Let’s take a look at them.
HTTP – The Universal Language
With an increasingly mobile and geographically distributed workforce, it has become almost a mandatory requirement that all business applications are available in the internet domain. Even the non-SaaS enterprise applications are now being made available outside of the firewall (as websites or via mobile applications). In fact, I’d argue that the traditionally well understood concept of enterprise boundaries (often defined using the boundary of a firewall) are being severely challenged with the advent of cloud and mobile applications. All applications (SaaS and on-premise) are now expected to expose functionality via Web APIs (HTTPS, in most cases) for customer, partner, and employee consumption. These pervasive implementations of the universally accepted and understood protocol (HTTP/S) have greatly simplified serving up and consumption of business information or data. In my mind, this change is one of the main drivers simplified data access in integration solutions.
A More Business-Centric IT World
Websites fronting enterprise applications and serving up business content are naturally business-centric. These business-centric web APIs tend to abstract out a lot of the technical complexities that have traditionally proven to be the bane of service-oriented architectures. Consumption of these business-centric services has made building integrations a less technical task. The onus is now on IT to abstract the technical complexities out and wrap them up as mobile or browser consumable services. The developers building mobile applications or other web applications tend to have a different skillset from the ones who have traditionally built enterprise applications. They no longer need to be XML-savvy or understand the inner workings of application protocols (JDBC, SAP ABAP, etc.). Integration applications have a lot to benefit from this abstraction. I would argue that with the right kind of tool set, even a business analyst can become an integration developer. This is reason number two for the brewing disruption.
Emergence of the Citizen Developer
To extend this argument further, business users are more technology-savvy than ever. This new generation of business users have grown up with computers around them and are perfectly comfortable at installing and configuring applications, writing simple macros in excel, and interacting with highly interactive games and applications. In short, they are not intimidated by technology. With the availability of business services that abstract out technical complexities, the business user can now easily be empowered to rapidly develop integration flows without IT’s hand holding. Their thirst for agility and instant gratification has only gotten exacerbated given the ease at which SaaS applications can be purchased and gotten value out of. All they need is a business user-friendly tool that gives them enough flexibility and power to build meaningful integrations. How IT’s role changes in response to this dynamic is a longer topic meriting a dedicated blog.
To summarize, I strongly believe that the integration space is ready for disruption. And the timing is just right as well given how business applications have broken down traditional enterprise boundaries by moving from on-premise to cloud and how that has simplified business services enough for the reasonably tech-savvy business user to rapidly build integration flows. This transition will bring integration to the masses, improve overall organizational productivity while freeing up IT resources for more strategic projects.
I look forward to your comments and thoughts!