Hybrid integration is claiming a more significant role in how organizations connect and share information with their trading partners. Ever since cloud applications have begun to gain ground, it’s a must to enable connectivity between them and on-premise systems. Whenever there are endpoints of different nature (e.g., cloud & on-premise), we can talk about hybrid integrations.
As hybrid integrations started to become more relevant, integration providers have increasingly taken up the term ‘hybrid integration platform’ as the data integration tool for when you need to connect two or more systems, applications, or data sources and there is a mix of on-premise and cloud-based applications.
As you may read more and more about hybrid integrations, we wanted to create an article that answers all your questions.
This blog will explain the concept of hybrid integrations and what hybrid integration platforms really are. By the end of the article, you will understand how hybrid integration platforms fit into the integration strategies of organizations and how this integration technology helps them to tackle the challenges of digital business transformation.
Disclaimer: The scope of this article does not handle hybrid integration solutions that target citizen integrators.
What is hybrid integration?
Currently, various industries are undergoing digital transformation. One of the core elements of digital transformation is the capability of information sharing. To enable real-time data sharing, organizations need to ensure that all their business-critical applications, both internally and externally, are connected. When connecting siloed systems and applications, companies will be dealing with a variety of endpoints: some will be on-premise systems (often legacy ones), and there’ll be a need for extracting data from cloud-based applications and data sources.
While integration vendors hype the term ‘hybrid integration’, it is not a new thing. Hybrid integration is merely an information exchange between two or multiple applications, but in this case, some of the applications are in the cloud, while others are on-premise.
Hybrid integrations have the same set of functionalities as ‘traditional’ integration solutions:
- Interface components to enable inbound and outbound information exchange.
- Data translation tools so that all applications receive data in the format that they can understand.
- Process orchestration functionalities to control message flow or enable content-based routing.
- Hybrid integration functionalities typically also include monitoring and alerting tools to ensure that the hybrid integration solutions operate as required without flaws, and in case of any errors, they can be fixed quickly.
These functionalities are standard for any integration solutions regardless of whether you need to connect SaaS applications, on-premise legacy systems, IoT devices, or establish traditional EDI messaging using, for example, FTP or SFTP interfaces.
In the middle, there is always the integration logic. When integration architects are developing a solution, they need to focus on creating integration orchestration and transformation regardless of the nature of the integrated applications. This approach enables that the solutions can be built and managed separately from the core solution, as well as change and remove interfaces easily as needed.
What Is a Hybrid Integration Platform?
There are different definitions of what a hybrid integration platform is.
“Technologies that simplify and reduce the cost of the development, testing, deployment, and maintenance of application and data interfaces.”
Just recently, we published an article about vendors that genuinely have a hybrid integration platform. There too, we emphasized that most hybrid integration platforms are simply just integration platforms (iPaaS) containing all the tools that enable integration developers to create all the functionalities mentioned in the paragraph above.
What differentiates an iPaaS, and elevates it to a hybrid integration platform (HIP) level, is that it doesn’t merely tackle integrations between cloud-based applications, but a strategic iPaaS (or call it hybrid integration platform) will facilitate data integration between any applications regardless whether they are situated on-premise or in the cloud.
According to Gartner, in most cases, traditional integration tools are not able to address the complexity of hybrid integrations. Therefore, hybrid integration platforms are typically enterprise iPaaS (EiPaaS) tools that can facilitate integrations between any endpoints.
A versatile EiPaaS that works as a hybrid integration platform enables the development of integrations in different integration domains, such as application integration, data integration, B2B integration, and business process integration and can integrate any endpoints, such as on-premise systems, cloud-based applications and data sources, or even IoT devices. The deployment model can be cloud, on-premises, or hybrid.
Why do you need a hybrid integration platform?
- You or your partners have a variety of systems, both on-premise and cloud ones.
- You need to break down data silos and extract data from all the different sources.
- Reduce IT expenditure and connect your legacy data sources to the cloud.
- Enable agility and innovation by connecting all applications within your ecosystem and unlocking the data you have at your disposal.
- You have existing on-premise systems, but due to organizational or governmental policies or security concerns, you cannot move to the cloud and but you need to ensure that you can use the data better that’s in your on-premise systems.
- You need to have timely data, e.g., batch processes are not sufficient enough; you need to ensure that you receive all the information in real-time.
- Integrating on-premise systems with business process networks, business partners, subsidiaries, SaaS cloud services, internet of things (IoT) devices, mobile apps, and so on can be very complicated, especially, when errors occur, and the integrations need to be maintained.
- Integrating EDI (batch-based) with API (event-based).
- Firewalls can be an obstacle; HIPs can tackle that. Yet, you don’t need to give up security or control over the data.
Benefits of hybrid integrations
As cloud and SaaS adoption becomes increasingly relevant, if you need to connect to on-premise systems, you’ll most likely need a tool that can enable the rapid development between the two completely different architectures.
Whether you just purchase a tool or you partner with a managed integration services provider, you will see the following benefits:
- - Depending on the vendor you work with, you either purchase a tool that can help to tackle hybrid integrations or you can get completely managed services, so you only provide the specs for the solutions and your partner will take care of the rest.
- - Completely tailored solutions according to your specific needs. There is no one-fits-all scenario.
- - Connect all your trading partners or internal systems faster.
- - Agile, flexible, scalable solutions.
- - Availability of the cloud – ensure that you can always transfer the data when you need to transfer it.
- - Highest level of security.
- - All the data belongs to you, no one gets access to your data.
- - Hybrid integrations can support innovation and digital transformation.
- - In case you are using legacy systems, hybrid integrations can be interpreted as a small renovation in the existing architecture and align it with other more modern technologies, while you also enable better connectivity enterprise-wide as well as with your partners, and you provide more visibility into the available data. It also allows space for reshaping your operations and processes.
Strategic Role of HIP
Integrations can play a strategic role in the effectiveness of your operations, so it’s essential that you create an integration strategy that embraces all the different type of connectivity solutions you need to focus on.
When you create the plan, you should start out by analyzing the integration capabilities you have in place. What kind of existing connections do you have? Who developed them, and what tools did they use? Was it done in-house or did you outsource? Did you use some sort of integration platform or do you only have point-to-point integrations? Do you have EDI connections or perhaps APIs? Will you have to connect with partners that have EDI or API?
Once you answered all these questions, your next step is to define what integration solutions you need to implement in the future. Depending on your specific case, you can plan this for the next 12 months, three years, or even five years, if you can. Keep in mind that your integration strategy should be a living document that you update as frequently as needed. It’s typical with integration projects that timelines and schedules are changing (especially when you need to connect with multiple parties), so periodically revising the plan is essential. By identifying what type of connections you will need and with which partners, you will be able to determine what resources you should have.
Once you’ve defined this part of the plan, you need to start your research to identify what solutions, tools, and services could extend the capabilities of your IT team. Assuming you have to connect both on-premise and cloud applications, you will have to identify hybrid integration vendors. We have created an essential guide for those that are looking for a provider that can develop truly hybrid integrations. According to Gartner, there are only a few of the over 100 iPaaS companies have the capabilities, so we wanted to simplify the research process for you.
To find a strategic iPaaS that functions as a HIP, you will have to evaluate your options carefully, as most iPaaS solutions have some gaps and won’t be able to help you with more complex integration challenges.
While you may have an in-house integration team within your IT department, and the team will remain important, more companies are looking to outsource their integrations to build a connected enterprise that shares information more strategically. As collaboration is essential today across all stakeholders, creating integrations faster is vital. Whether it’s a simple, straightforward connection or a more challenging hybrid scenario, the development and deployment should happen fairly quickly. By outsourcing integrations, your IT team will be able to focus on your product and service development.
Hybrid integration platform for legacy system modernization
You may want to utilize a hybrid integration platform for legacy system modernization. While in many cases, changing the outdated systems is not an option, using a hybrid integration approach can help you drive innovations. An integration layer will add to the lifecycle of your old investments so that you’ll be able to connect these technologies to others as well to communicate with other systems and applications. Replacing legacy systems would be risky in terms of project delivery, cost of implementation, and security.
Investing in a hybrid integration platform means that you will be able to utilize your current systems for longer so that your organization can become more digital by enabling information sharing and process automation.
Connecting poorly documented on-premise technologies is a difficult task, so working with a vendor that has experience could be beneficial.
You can’t avoid hybrid integrations
As you use more and more cloud apps, but you also rely on your legacy technologies, hybrid integrations will allow you to make these systems talk to each other. Depending on the case, sometimes it can be quite challenging to connect these different applications and deal with the different data standards, protocols, and all the other things that come to integrations.
The main decision you need to make is whether you purchase a tool and you design all the connections by yourself or if you’d outsource the work completely to a vendor that provides managed integration services.