(MENAFN Editorial) Companies looking to adopt cloud computing, but are also keen to keep their existing IT infrastructure and on-premises applications will benefit from the flexibility that hybrid integration has to offer, says an executive from STME, Middle East's leading solutions provider and systems integrator.
However, in order to maximise the potential of hybrid IT, the right hybrid integration strategy must be put in place to respond to the unique IT needs of a company, according to Mohannad Amr, Project Management Officer at STME.
"Enterprises have already invested and will continue to invest in on-premises core applications and infrastructure architecture tailored to their needs," says Amr. "But the emergence of social media, smartphone and tablet technologies, and even workplace practices such as BYOD (bring your own device), have expanded engagement points and pushed enterprises to rethink their existing platform so as to seize new opportunities that the cloud presents."
Across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, cloud computing adoption is gradually taking off as per a recent industry survey. Between 2012 and 2017, the region is expected to have the highest cloud traffic growth rate in the world at 57 per cent CAGR, followed by Asia Pacific and Central and Eastern Europe, according to the Cisco Global Cloud Index.
Gartner estimated revenues from the cloud services market in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to be around US462.3 million in 2013, rising by more than 24% from the previous year's figures.
"Cloud is no longer just a buzzword, but rather a reality that no organisation can ignore. By adopting hybrid integration, companies get to dip their toes into cloud computing without totally abandoning the conventional approach. However, getting the right hybrid environment balance has proven to be challenging," says Amr.
To address this concern, Amr adds, IT departments need to scrutinise strategies and align them with their enterprise operational needs prior to commencing hybrid integration. "This entails being crystal clear on the interoperability requirements between systems, the level of data flow integration, and the scalability ad extensibility needs in the future."
A number of literature on integration of on-premises and cloud environments that are individualised for specific industries are also available to help IT managers. The generic theme includes carrying out Application Portfolio Analysis (APA), where existing application portfolio is analysed and rationalised for best possible alignment between on-premise and cloud systems.
Gradual transformation is another key strategy, where enough time and thought are given to build new layers in order to consolidate and standardise systems. In addition, ongoing optimisation of both architecture and processes, as well as harmonising data continuously are crucial to maintaining service levels and efficiency.
"At the tactical level, it is not uncommon to find IT departments trying to integrate on-premises and cloud applications by creating custom codes using a cloud service's application programming interfaces (APIs). The downside of this approach is that not only can these APIs be complex, but the degree of such integration is also limited to the capabilities that the cloud service vendor allows through APIs," he says.
The use of Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is another strategy, which utilizes advanced cloud-based set of services that allow for the development, management and governance of the connections and information transfer between on-premises and cloud-based applications. "Although more costly up-front, this method transfers the risks of API in-house development along with future ongoing maintenance and upgrades to the iPaaS vendor," Amr adds.
While it may provide several advantages, adopting a hybrid integration environment also posts some disadvantages, he says. "Increasing reliance on the cloud makes CIOs more engaged in managing service level agreements (SLAs) with multiple service providers instead of managing their own systems. Users also need to accept some latency due to Internet- vs. LAN-based communications, though that is being mediated by the development of advanced web technologies and ever growing bandwidths."
Overall, hybrid integration offers a safe bet for Middle East companies eager to tap the cloud's potential.