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Enterprise application integration: Beyond SOA and into the cloud

CIOs look to enterprise application integration to coordinate and consolidate. Learn how to use SOA, cloud computing and application integration providers to your advantage.

With every new enterprise architecture comes the need to consolidate, collaborate and manage existing applications. Enterprise application integration incorporates Software as a Service (SaaS), service-oriented architecture (SOA), business process management (BPM) and cloud computing into the mix as technology continues to grow and evolve -- but how does this translate into your midmarket organization?

In this guide on enterprise application integration, experts explore integration best practices, how to effectively use SOA in your integration process, how service providers are stepping up to the new technological challenges and what cloud computing's role is in integration. Read on to learn how to have a successful business application integration strategy.

For free advice and resources on more IT and business topics, visit our list of Midmarket CIO Briefings.

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  Should midmarket companies use SOA primarily for application integration?
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With every new software architecture, implementation horror stories seem to abound until people learn the finer points through trial and error. SOA is no exception -- take the case of a bank that created about 900 individual services only to find that a third of them were duplicative because no one was paying attention to who was creating what business services in each of the bank's divisions. So much for code reuse, SOA's oft-touted main benefit.

Reusability may be hyped as a big reason for turning to a SOA implementation, but as the bank found out, realizing reuse requires both architectural sophistication and working governance, which can be hard to achieve at first. BPM and application integration projects are where midmarket organizations gain the most value.

Learn more about the business value of SOA implementations in "First SOA implementations should focus on business value." Also:

  Can SaaS and cloud computing applications be integrated?
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Extra Space Storage Inc. wanted to take back its call center from an outsourcing company to give customers a more personal and more reliable experience when choosing self-storage space in one of its 685 facilities. It also wanted to integrate more applications with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The result: a call center built on cloud computing.

For Extra Space Storage, the call center solution needed to be flexible -- not just for the 50 call center agents but also for the rest of the 2,500 employees, who needed reliable remote access to several systems: a point-of-sale (POS) application, a new SaaS CRM application and a new help desk issue tracking system. Most employees are in the field at the facilities, where customers rent space for furniture and other items.

The self-storage space provider also needed to quickly bring more than a dozen acquired facilities into the call center fold, and integrate the various facilities management systems -- acquisition, construction and operations -- behind one interface.

Get more information in "Cloud computing helps firm bring call center in-house, integrate apps." Also:

  What are some SOA governance and integration best practices?
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Mike Kavis, a former enterprise architect at Catalina Marketing Corp., a $500 million company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., says that midmarket companies should apply the same discipline to SOA projects as larger enterprises bring to theirs. One of those disciplines is learning to develop small projects with long-term goals in mind.

"You have to think in small chunks. You have to win over the business side by proving out one project at a time, and you have to realize that the benefits may not be immediate," said Kavis, now an independent consultant out of Bradenton, Fla., who offers practical guidance for developing SOA projects and is launching a cloud service and consulting firm as chief technology officer of MDot.

Learn more about SOA best practices. Also:

  What can application integration providers offer?
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A number of up-and-comers have joined market-leading stalwarts in Gartner Inc.'s recent integration service providers (ISP) Magic Quadrant report, offering customers a wide selection of viable vendors to assist with business-to-business (B2B) integration projects.

Further good news for customers: Increased competition among ISPs is also bringing prices down, according to the report, issued last month by the Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm.

Companies spent $1.5 billion on Integration as a Service and B2B project outsourcing services in 2007, according to the report, and Gartner predicts that figure will rise considerably over the next three to five years. ISPs, eager to grab a piece of the pie, have responded by lowering prices and making significant upgrades to their offerings.

Discover more about integration providers in "A growing integration service providers market gives customers better choices, lower prices." Also:

  More resources
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