Hybrid Integration Warfare

May 22, 2018

Having been in the systems integration industry for two decades, I have started to notice a trend how this industry works. Every few years, someone finds out a “new” pattern or a principle, gives it a fancy name and starts preaching about it. 

Over the years, we have had patterns like SOA, which is basically just a new wrapping of good old modular design principles, or technologies such as XML that should have solved all problems with information presentation and message transformation, et cetera.

Today, it is quite fashionable to talk about anything “hybrid”. People are talking about hybrid warfare, hybrid cars, hybrid this and hybrid that – and most likely people are talking about something that has existed for a long time. Things evolve and their form changes over the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will become new things. Hybrid warfare is just a modern incarnation of propaganda. Hybrid cars are still cars. 

Let's talk about hybrid integrations

And now in the integration industry, we are talking about “hybrid integrations”. I know, I have been talking about that as well. But again – it’s not a new thing. It is integration in its purest and most fundamental form. Let me explain… 

EAI or B2B integrations?

When we started designing Youredi’s focus and initial architecture, we had a question that we needed to answer ourselves. We had been gathering knowledge from different environments – some of us had a good knowledge of enterprise application integration (EAI) – integrating companies’ internal applications, typically located on-premise. Some others had more understanding of B2B integrations and EDI connections, making information move between different organizations. The questions we were facing in the very beginning were whether we should focus on EAI or B2B integrations and whether we would concentrate our development efforts on the cloud or on-premise integrations.

What we did was to take a step back and have a 30,000 feet view of what integration is all about. We soon came to the conclusion that integration is simply an exchange of information between two or more different applications. In all integrations, there exists a standard set of functionalities – interface components that enable inbound and outbound information exchange to different applications, message transformation tools that make it possible for different applications to understand each other, process orchestration functionalities that control the message flow and enable content-based routing etc. There are also always monitoring and alerting tools that are required for making sure that once developed, the integration solution can be operated efficiently and inevitable error situations are quickly found and acted upon.

All the above are common for all types of integrations – whether you are integrating SaaS applications, on-premise legacy systems, IoT devices, or interfacing with traditional EDI messaging using FTP, SFTP or such interfaces. The same set of functionalities can also be found in integration solutions built to serve companies’ internal integration needs as well as solutions that exchange information between organizations.

 

Yes, we ended up building a hybrid integration platform

So, we ended up developing an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) that is agnostic to the surrounding infrastructure and architectural decisions caused by different approaches that our customer organizations have taken in their history. In our approach, the integration logic is in the middle of the integration solution; when you create a solution, you are forced to focus on the creation of the integration orchestrations and transformations regardless of the nature of the integrated applications. In this approach the interfaces to the applications are abstracted from the core functionality, making it possible not only to build and manage them separately from the solution core but also to add, change or remove interfaces easily. Logic is separated from the surroundings. 

We didn’t know it then, but we ended up building a hybrid integration platform. We just simply talked about “integration”. 

Hybrid integration is the basis of all integrations

 

It has been interesting to see the recent discussion around hybrid integration platforms. To my eyes, it quite often appears that hybrid integration is considered a feature, something that can be added on top of existing integration platforms. I feel differently; hybrid integration is not a feature, it is the basis of all integrations.

When talking about interfacing different applications – in cloud, on-premise, within one organization or in multiple organizations – the question is about adaptation to different scenarios and architectures that simply exist out there. And the primary reason for integration solutions to existing is to adapt to the surrounding world – whatever it looks like.

Systems and application integration is hybrid integration by definition. An integration solution that does not provide those capabilities that have been hyped as “hybrid integration” today are only partial integration solutions.

Like SOA, the “hybrid integration” discussion will be forgotten in a few years. Like SOA, people will understand that the principles that are referenced in these terms are actually the key principles behind all successful integration solutions.

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