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Making SaaS integration an on-going IT priority

Deploying SaaS apps doesn't necessarily signal the end for your on-premises ones. Instead, IT should be continually focused on making the two work together.

When moving to a SaaS model, it's a mistake to assume that legacy on-premises apps are simply being swapped out for hosted ones. Instead, make SaaS integration an on-going priority.

"I just don't see the shutting down of on-prem that everyone expected," said David Linthicum, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners in Boston. "If anything, cloud apps tend to be additive. For every app that shuts down, another app pops up."

Further, while some applications lend themselves well to software as a service (SaaS) -- ERP, CRM, HR -- that's not true for all new applications.

"Big data systems tend not to live in the cloud because of the I/O and bandwidth requirements," Linthicum said.

The same is true for many new business intelligence, data mining, analytics and Internet of Things applications, setting up the need for a hybrid cloud management layer that spans your data centers.

SaaS integration work, thus, is a never-ending process.

"Integration is not an occasional thing, especially with organizations of significant size," said Peter Coffee, Salesforce vice president for strategic research.

To that end, SaaS vendors sometimes provide facilities to expose and consume Web services in order to connect to external data services and sources.

Making that as easy as possible will lay the groundwork for a new world of so-called citizen developers, where line-of-business users themselves create applications and integrations they need to do their jobs, Coffee said. IT's role is to act as the "adult supervision" by providing governance, control, and data integration.

Until then, many SaaS applications still can't be easily customized, said Rob Castaneda, CEO at ServiceRocket, a provider of hosted training software.

Ironically, some SaaS vendors have begun to offer both hosted and on-premises versions of their wares. With the latter, users can customize it to their heart's content, but many shops find customization not worth the trouble.

"It's a hare or the tortoise situation," Castaneda said. "We find friction every time we have to customize something on our own."

And the firm has firm rules about where it spends its energy.

"We give a lot of thought about where we don't want to differentiate as a business, and try to keep things as simple as possible," Castaneda said.

Alex Barrett is editor in chief of Modern Infrastructure. Write to her at [email protected].

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