Making Systems Integration Easy

Making Systems Integration Easy

Brendon Bouwer
21 October 2021

The advent of cloud applications has introduced many new trials for integration. These trials can include securing information in older legacy applications that exist on-premises with newer applications in the cloud. Furthermore, the ability to manage and monitor messages that are delivered by integration interfaces that span across multiple on-premises legacy systems, on-premises integration runtime components, cloud integration runtime elements, cloud applications and containerised applications in a hybrid cloud integration setup introduces additional complexity and challenges.

Is it really possible to make integration simple? With the correct tools in one’s toolkit, processes, entities and implementation partner, the possibility exists to make systems integration easier.

Making Systems Integration Easy

Making Systems Integration Easy

To address some of the new challenges that come with hybrid cloud integration, teams need to employ new tools and technologies to simplify common tasks and standardise processes. Some of these include the following:

Integration Scenarios, Reference Architecture and Patterns

Enterprise Integration Scenarios, Architectures and Patterns can solve a specific problem. This reference material can be based on a complex problem that was solved during a previous implementation and used again to help solve similar problems. This can speed up delivery and aid in making integration between applications simpler.

Best Practices

It is essential to document integration best practices and to develop guides and standards. For example, a naming standard would include a well-constructed artefact name. This would help an integration architect easily identify the type of artefact, its associated application, deployment environment, re-usability and location. Best practices also include commentary in program code or integration flow services. This is conducive to increased team productivity, maintenance, and support activities. Descriptive code comments make it easier to troubleshoot, debug, sustain and support. Well-articulated guides and practices make implementations easier and help avoid costly rework.

Institute an Integration Centre Of Excellence:

An Integration Centre of Excellence is an entity that can offer leadership and support, share best practices and advice, offer training, and assist with data governance. An Integration Centre Of Excellence can ensure that the integration project methodology is followed correctly. It can also help with reviewing integration designs, assist with governance compliance, implement guides on best practices, assist with cataloguing integration artefacts and suggest areas of reuse.

Create A Registry of Integration Interfaces and Artefacts

A properly maintained integration registry can help integration architects and developers identify components that can be reused. A registry can also help articulate which artefacts are common or used frequently by other existing integration interfaces. This can help determine if any regression testing is required.

Integration Workflow Templates

Implement templates to speed up the development of integration workflows. For example, a template of a commonly used integration workflow can simplify future integrations and speed up delivery.

Standardised Web Service Specifications

Consider generating standard specifications such as web service – Web Service Definition Layer (WSDL) files or OpenAPI (Swagger). This helps API administrators to rapidly implement new APIs and catalogue them on API platforms such as Azure API Management. Many API management platforms include a portal that enables the administrator to make an API discoverable to developers.

Replace Legacy Connectors with Modernise Web Service APIs

Consider replacing vendor-proprietary specific connectors with standard connectors such as HTTP REST services. With a roadmap in place that migrates the organisation’s core applications to the cloud, it makes sense to replace vendor-exclusive connectors with HTTP web service APIs. More applications can understand these protocols and integrate with them than legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) connectors. Furthermore, it makes the transition to the cloud easier and future integration implementations simpler. Finally, since many software vendors charge license fees for their connectors, the use of web services results in cost savings.

Deployment management

Automated deployments with DevOps tools such as Azure Pipelines and GitHub repository can simplify migration activities from one environment to another. A key feature present in Azure DevOps Pipelines is the ability to add the necessary approvers, which helps simplify integration governance processes. A code repository such as GitHub helps systems integration team members to collaborate on projects, combining powerful features such as commits and branches. GitHub is a source and version control system that gives systems integration team members the ability to organize, manage and track their code.

Centralised Monitoring

It can become tricky for integration support personnel and administrators to monitor applications that exist in hybrid-cloud ecosystems. Some cloud vendors such as Microsoft have made tools available such as Azure Arc to assist with centralised visibility, management and monitoring of resources that are running in the cloud, on-premises, or containerised applications.  

Other factors that can make systems integration easy

Integration projects can be complicated due to the many different technologies involved. It is necessary to have individual conversations with each application SME to get an understanding of the application data model, technical and functional field names in each of the source and target applications that share data over an integration interface. A generic list of commonly used integration questions pertaining to these areas and others can help facilitate these conversations and assist in determining the gravity of the data.

Dialogue with SME’s

Dialogue with all application SMEs is necessary to discover and document the source of target field mappings, data translations and transformations. This exercise and the resulting data mapping specification is arguably the most important deliverable in an integration project. It is synonymous with a speech interpreter translating from one language to another. Without it, integration becomes a meaningless conversation. On the other hand, a well-documented mapping specification simplifies the integration interface development and implementation is conducive towards a seamless engagement for the systems integration stakeholders.

Integration Development Tooling

Using the correct integration development tooling can significantly reduce the implementation complexity and time to develop a new interface. For example, some software vendors provide Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) that incorporate no-code or low-code tooling. This enables integration developers to visually build an integration flow by dragging, dropping and connecting components from a pallet onto a canvas area. An integration development platform’s inclusion of proprietary connectors, such as Salesforce, SAP, ServiceNow, LinkedIn and GitHub, as well as standard connectors such as Java-Based Connectivity (JDBC), REST and HTTP, can further simplify integration implementations and speed up delivery.

API Management

Finally, an API Management application can significantly simplify and speed up activities. Moreover, if APIs are documented in an OpenAPI specification and made discoverable, it makes it easier for developers to find an API for a particular requirement. Developers can then test it before implementing it in a new consumer application. These benefits can significantly reduce the implementation time.

Integration at Integrove

Integrove understands the hurdles that organisations face when transitioning to a hybrid-cloud integration environment. We can provide the necessary support, integration methodology and guidance to simplify the integration journey and make it a success. Integrove can help your organisation to make this transition simpler and seamless with our team of integration specialists.

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