Apps are a good fit for the cloud, if only evidenced by the thriving ecosystem on Salesforce.com alone. After all, cloud apps are easy for business users to adopt as they are immediately available and ready to access, without having to wait for IT to install them. They can also be easily tried and purchased via flexible subscription and pricing options, which makes them easy on the departmental budget. Cloud apps enable IT teams to focus on adding value to the business by extending the software and customizing it, rather than maintaining the software and fixing it if it breaks.
Is There an App for That?
Despite the massive acceptance of cloud apps, there has been much debate on whether data-integration-in-the-cloud would ever be as successful as apps-in-the-cloud. The challenge, of course, lies in the physical and logical distances that need to be traversed to integrate the data necessary to run today’s business. Data sources are getting exponentially larger, as are the associated costs and complexities related to relocating the data. Also, as new technologies get added to the mix, it becomes increasingly challenging to bridge the gap with older legacy systems. Many of these legacy systems were designed for highly specific purposes and sometimes employ proprietary access methods using individual applications that are often out-of-date. This challenge is compounded during mergers and acquisitions when organizations need to bridge a greater number of heterogeneous systems in a relatively short time.
In addition to the potential language barriers, older, on-premise sources can present other access limitations. For instance, the data often has to be moved to a data warehouse (via batch-oriented extract, transform, load (ETL) processes) before it can be accessed, which makes on-premise sources particularly challenging to integrate with cloud-based sources.
Security is another issue, as moving data across wires makes it susceptible to being lost or compromised through hacking. However, in many cases, this issue can be surmounted since the entire web — including e-commerce, financial, and government applications — often runs on a foundation of security. Unfortunately, and in order to bring data integration to the cloud, security is a likely burden that will fall to the app developers.
Data-in-transit is also susceptible to a sudden loss of network bandwidth, which can cause unexpected delays. If data integration were in the cloud, users would be highly intolerable of such delays. Business users are fairly comfortable querying a single unified system, such as a data warehouse, but imagine if a user received a message such as “The data you requested is in transit,” followed by a progress bar.