With an increased pace of innovation in technology, enterprises are keeping their radars on for quickly adopting new technologies and gaining a competitive edge. However, new technology adoption with little focus on integration is causing setbacks to business outcomes.
Eliminating legacy systems is not the solution, as many of them continue to be in use, and thus, many core functionalities of new investments remain underutilized. To use technologies for the best of advantage, organizations need to find a hybrid solution that brings together the best of both worlds.
A hybrid approach consists of more than one component brought together in seamless operation, let’s call it a mixture of two or more things. In Information Technology (IT), hybrid systems are those systems which reside on cloud and on-premise and talk to each other. On-premise systems run on physical hardware, virtual machines, containers or virtual private cloud, while cloud systems run primarily on the public cloud at vendors’ data center. Some of the examples are EC2, Azure, GCloud, etc. Hybrid IT Integration is an approach for integrating cloud and on-premise applications with protocol connectors and business rules. While hybrid architecture holds the answer, it is fraught with multiple challenges.
Most CIOs believe that they are executing a transformation by adopting new cloud-based technologies. They deploy Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) based applications with a belief that they will improve speed of business and performance. Every new technology has its own design, data format, architecture, and silo. One of the unintended cause of massive new technology adoption is complex hybrid IT. In medium to large organizations, this complexity widens to take the form ‘islands of automation.’ The biggest challenge is integrating cloud and on-premise technologies in a way that they are aligned with best of business interests. IT teams fight tough battles for getting data from one system to another and exchanging it with internal or external partners.
Increased IT Complexity: IT environment becomes extremely complex and chaotic. IT teams handcode integrations from scratch to build connectivity between legacy and on-premise applications. They setup independent interfaces to define integrations and business rules. The direct path of setting point-to-point integrations works fine for an ecosystem which has one or two applications, but fails outright where more than 10 or 20 applications need to be integrated. This leads to a problem called ‘integration hairball’ which strangles and strains the IT infrastructure. A single change to one interface causes a cascade of changes to other systems. Network breakdowns and disruptions prevent partners from exchanging data. When technologies remain in a constant state of flux, their usability is often left behind. This prevents organizations from reaching overarching business benefits.
Security Risks: The next big challenge becomes dealing with an intense barrage of security threats. This doesn’t mean that public cloud is insecure. As a matter of fact, hybrid IT environment is insecure where there are so many endpoints that can lead to security points of failure. Weak endpoints in cloud provide new attack surface to hackers. Apart from this, enterprises need to manage different security platforms in a hybrid IT model. With different cloud providers, it becomes even more difficult for firms to monitor data flows and secure them.
Reduced Speed: Hybrid IT environment becomes too heavy to respond to IT and business changes. IT teams waste several months of time for building integrations between disparate applications. Disruptions occur when Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) needs Client Relationship Management data or Accounting Software needs CRM data. Because of these disruptions to Electronic Data Interchange, enterprises slow down time to revenue and miss out on valuable business opportunities.
Heavy IT intervention: Heavy IT intervention and extensive consultation is needed to maintain a hybrid IT environment. With manual coding approach, a dedicated team of developers and testers is required for building technology integrations. It becomes really difficult to find integration specialists and developers for integration projects. Apart from this, specialized resources are required for designing the network mesh between public clouds, private clouds, and legacy systems.
Cost Overheads: Integrating hybrid IT with a P2P connectivity might look straightforward but it is a costly undertaking. The cost expands significantly when more interfaces, are required for accommodating new applications, services, and processes. The cost of managing and maintaining separate interfaces skyrocket straight into the stratosphere. The business is sidetracked till the time IT builds workflows for integration. Separate licenses need to be purchased for setting up connections between disparate applications.
Lack of Visibility: Another big drawback of hybrid is lack of visibility into the architecture. IT teams develop one thing without knowing that what other teams are building. They don’t have a single view for managing integrations for managing multifaceted processes and multi-dimensional data. In this process, they set up multiple sources of truth that prevent teams from getting the right data at the right time.
Organizations need to rethink their integration strategies for managing the hybrid IT environment. In part II, we will discuss some best practices to eliminate these challenges.