Cloud is Silver and Hybrid Gold - Data Integration
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old, Cloud isSilver and Hybrid GoldMy last blog post we talked about the top trends in integration which coveredquite a bit of ground. Today were going to take a closer look at hybrid andthe "hybrid problem". Hopefully when were done youre not equating hybridwith certain unprintable words. Hybrid can be indeed gold.What is hybrid anyway?Depending on whom youre talking to and what youre reading, the term hybridcan get confusing. We see people use the term "hybrid" to cover infrastructureor application environments, pieces of an application that are available onpremise or online, or, lately, Ive heard someone refer to a channel partner as"hybrid" because they were implementing both online and premise basedsolutions. A recent article on CIO.com refers to "hyper-hybrid". Hybrid seemsto be one of those popular adjectives like "social" or "cloud" that are usedpretty much everywhere and with everything. And of course, as integrationvendors, weve got hybrid integration.The most common cases where you see the label "hybrid" is in the case ofinfrastructure and applications. When we talk about hybrid infrastructure,were talking about portions of your server, storage, and other data centercomponents living both behind the firewall in your data center and parts in apublic or private cloud. The situation is the same for applications; a businessthat has applications in the cloud and on premise has a hybrid businessapplication environment. When Scribe or other integration vendors talk abouthybrid integration, were talking about integrating cloud and premise basedapplications.The term hybrid seems to get a bad rap – its a complex problem, so manypitfalls, it creates new silos, its a problem. Proponents of the cloud wouldlike you to go all cloud - the cloud just magically makes everything andeveryone work better. If you peel away the marketing and media hype aroundcloud or hybrid, a hybrid application environment is necessary and a fact oflife for most of us. And there are actually good things about hybridenvironments – not all of us have budget or cast iron stomach to rip andreplace all our business applications to pure cloud. Practically speaking, mostof us follow "if aint broke, dont fix it" approach to replacing applications.Dont get me wrong, I love cloud applications. I love the technologies and userexperience that cloud, social, and mobile bring to market. Those technologieshave helped Scribe do things with our Scribe Online platform that we couldnever do with our premise solution. Cloud, social, and mobile has also got usthinking and planning about how do we incorporate some of those elementsinto our premise based solution? Speaking as the VP of Product Management, I
could geek out on Cloud, Social, and Mobile all day long and never get tired ofit.Speaking as an executive of Scribe who, with the rest of our leadership team,has to manage the business and operations of Scribe, going all cloud loses itsluster pretty quickly. Like most of you, weve been in business for a while andwe have premise applications that are absolutely critical to our operations.Being an integration vendor, those premise applications are highly integratedwith our business and with each other –its not a simple thing to rip them outfor the sake of being all in the cloud. Mike Ehrenberg, Technical Fellow atMicrosoft and CTO for Microsoft Business Solutions, says it best in therecentCIO.com article, Forget about Public Cloud or Private Cloud, Its AllAbout Hyper-Hybrid: "Our perspective is that its irrational to think someonewill go to work on Friday and all their work will be on-prem, and then theycome into work Monday and everything will be in the cloud. People are goingto live with assets in both places for a long time."Scribe has implemented a number of cloud based applications in our ownbusiness operations over the years. Ill share some of our experiences andthought processes which maybe are experiences youve had or are about tohave when looking at cloud applications. The reality for Scribe is that hybrid isthe least risky and the best approach when adopting cloud. Integration canhelp further reduce that risk and best leverage both premise and cloudapplications. Your hybrid environment just becomes your business applicationenvironment when you have a strong integration methodology and platform.Lets talk about two common scenarios where hybrid (and integration) can begold for your business. The first would be the case of the ancient premisesystem that just works but isnt very sexy and doesnt have all the capabilitiesyou need today. The second is the case where youve outgrown thecapabilities of a particular business system and you need to replace it.Making the Best of What You HaveYou know that system that everyone snickers and rolls their eyes aboutbecause its probably from the 80s? You discuss every year that THIS YEAR youare going to replace it, you daydream about all the better things you can do ifyou had something else? Yep, we have one of those. That software is so manyrevs back its embarrassing to say but it just chugs along, never has an outage,never acts flaky, and does what its supposed to do very well and simply.Weve talked about and looked at replacement systems or adding modules toour CRM system many times and we decided to not to do anything because theincremental benefit was pretty low compared to the risk, distraction and costto implement a completely new system. The biggest beef we had internallywas "I really need to see that information in our CRM system" and "I dont wantto log into two systems". We have a cloud based CRM system – so instead ofbuying a new support system and launching a rather large
migration/implementation project, we spent the time integrating our oldsupport system into our cloud based CRM system. Problem solved. (For now).The biggest issue was access to the data so we tackled that one viaintegration. That caused zero disruption to our support operations and now allour sales people can access support cases in CRM. The cost to Scribe? Otherthan some internal resource time to map and implement the integration,zero. It also bought us time to plan, budget, and evaluate new vendors on themerit of the capabilities and features we want in a support system. We canalso use integration to two-tier the old system and our new support systeminto CRM so that we can have a less risky and smoother cutover. Our supportreps can close tickets in the old system and work new cases in the newsystem. The Sales team has all of the support information – old and new – attheir fingertips. We can then plan the migration of old support cases to thenew system and do that on a longer, more controlled time horizon rather thana big bang migration approach.Another way to extend the life of those older applications is to look for cloudapplications that provide the feature or function that you really need andthen integrate the two. Using the support system example above, lets say wecant publish knowledge base articles to the web very easily and wed reallylike a full featured, robust knowledge base portal on our website. Our existingsoftware cant do that. We dont have the people or the money or time towrite something ourselves – and why do that when we can purchase a cloudbased knowledge base solution? Through integration, we could populateknowledge base articles from our support system. So instead of ripping outand replacing a perfectly good – but old – business application, we can addfunctionality via cloud based apps and integration.Picking the Best for your BusinessOur second scenario is the case of the financial system that simply didnt fitour growing business. We had to replace the system with a new one – therewere no alternatives. In this case, we did a thorough evaluation of both cloudand premise ERP vendors. What was interesting to note about the selectionprocess was that at no time was the delivery platform – cloud, hosted, orpremise – a part of the discussion or impacted the decision. Why? Because weknew whatever we picked we could integrate with our existing businessapplications. Having integration at the ready freed us to focus absolutely onthe best vendor for our business needs. We ended up selecting an on premiseERP system and it is fully integrated into both our cloud and premiseapplications.In this case, if you have a robust integration approach, you dont have to limityour options. All of these ERP vendors we looked at had APIs or direct accessto the database that our integration products could talk to easily. In my pastlife at other companies, the choice of cloud versus premise was a very big
deal precisely because we did not have a strong integration platform orintegration strategy – how the API worked, what language it was in, was itLAMP or MSFT stack, and how difficult or easy we could write to that API wasabsolutely part of the initial vetting processes. Had we had an integrationstrategy other than custom code and getting to it later as a Phase II project,its very likely we would have picked different vendors.Why Partners and ISVs should care about HybridYour customers have premise systems and they arent going to get rid of them.While customers may be at different levels of their sophistication and use ofintegration, most of them know the importance of having applications sharedata and processes. What were seeing and hearing is that integration iscoming up much earlier in the sales cycle and in more cases, a key decisionpoint. For instance, I might be replacing my CRM system but Im extremelyhappy with my marketing automation vendor. Its very important that my newCRM system integrate with my existing marketing automation solution. If itdoesnt, Im going to be looking at CRM systems that do integrate with mymarketing automation solution or Im going to find a new partner who canmake that integration happen. As a reseller or an ISV, you dont want to lose adeal because you cant integrate your application or you cant answer thequestion.Likewise, you do not want the IT department of your customer to torpedoyour sales cycle because they are concerned about an integration project withcustom code and/or they dont have a strong integration approach already.Everyone is excited about the business value and now youve got roadblockslike "your API is in .NET, were a Java shop" or "Cloud is bad because I cant getto the data" or "we dont have the time, money or resources to write code tothis thing – its easier on premise". You dont want roadblocks like this whenyoure trying to close a sale.Have a good integration approach at the ready and answer "yes" to thosequestions, erase objections, and overcome fears. Anticipating and solving thecustomers worries raises your profile – youve got an excellent offering andyouve solved the "hybrid problem".Its All GoodPremise, hosted, or cloud systems arent better than one or the other, theyredifferent. We all have different reasons for choosing these delivery platformsand sticking with our premise applications. If you have a good integrationapproach that can handle premise and cloud applications together, you canleverage the benefits of both delivery methods and get the absolute best foryour business.Next post well explore an old but good friend – the data you already have inyour business. Well talk about how to leverage the data you already have and
of course, how integration can help you maximize that data in CRM to bettersell and service your customers.