This second article in the four-part series by Oracle ACE Director Joel Perez and Oracle ACE Associate Arturo Viveros takes an in-depth look at Cloud to Cloud Integration. The article series is directed towards IT managers and architects, particularly those who are hungry for knowledge related to cloud solutions and the dynamics involved when attempting to integrate them effectively into established business architectures.
Welcome, dear friends of the OTN community. In this second article of the Cloud Integration series, we will take an in-depth look at Cloud to Cloud Integration.
Why is Cloud to Cloud Integration such a relevant theme?
Commonly, we find that organizations with flourishing cloud adoption strategies tend to address an ever-growing number of concerns through an stunning variety of cloud-based solutions, producing, as a result, highly granular and heterogeneous landscapes; this as opposed to the generally more homogenized on-premise ecosystems.
And even though each one of these alternatives may begin by serving a very specific purpose, it’s usually just a matter of time before the need for interaction arises.
Things move more quickly in the cloud, and those integration needs are usually pressing in the sense of leveraging cloud investments and attaining promised benefits such as flexibility, business agility, etc.
Cloud integration projects, then, are definitely going to happen by necessity, but the last thing organizations want is a re-emergence of the dreaded “spaghetti architectures,” in which an array of point-to-point, custom-made interfaces are developed and deployed almost randomly, compromising with their proliferation the security, maintainability, standardization, performance and flexibility of our IT platforms:
What companies ultimately desire is a modern, dynamic, reliable and (most of all) adaptable integration platform that lets them keep up with the needs of the cloud-oriented industry.
Here’s where a concept such as iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) comes into play: an innovative alternative which nonetheless is becoming increasingly relevant.
Let’s look at Gartner’s definition of iPaaS:
"...a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows and connecting any combination of on premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations"
One of the interesting quirks of a paradigm like this one is that the solution for achieving adequate integration in a cloud-to-cloud scenarios is nothing else but another cloud solution.
By nature, this alternative would not require any kind of up-front investment in hardware, infrastructure or licensing, nor would it imply maintenance costs, coding, deployment or fine-tuning. Rather, organizations could get a fast start by just paying a subscription and starting to use the tool.
Introducing Oracle Integration Cloud Service
The question is: Does Oracle’s stack offer anything that can provide such capabilities and help us effectively resolve cloud-to-cloud integration scenarios?
And the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” As of very recently, Oracle has joined the iPaaS ranks alongside the leading players in the cloud integration market with the launch of its Integration Cloud Service (ICS). The investment has been very strong, and has yielded a powerful, best-of-breed solution.
From a technical perspective, one of the aspects that make Oracle ICS such a compelling and competitive solution is the foundation running under the curtains. Here are some of ICS’s building blocks:
- Oracle Cloud Application Framework
- Oracle Service Bus
- Oracle SOA Suite 12c
- Oracle WebLogic 12c
- Oracle DB 12c
- Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud
- Oracle Alta UI
- Oracle Public Cloud
- Java 7
All of these Oracle technologies have been combined to produce a robust and reliable platform, compliant with most, if not all, of the cloud characteristics set out in the introduction to this series.
In this regard, let’s try and answer some common questions which may come up in a technical conversation about ICS:
Q: Is this another acquisition from Oracle that has been re-branded as ICS?
A: No. ICS has been developed internally by Oracle; moreover, it has gone through an extremely careful QA and release strategy, and now is ready to hit the market.
Q: Can Oracle guarantee infrastructure-related performance/stability?
A: Yes. Deploying this kind of offering on Oracle Public Cloud leverages cutting-edge technologies, such as Oracle’s’ Engineered Systems (Exalogic, Super Cluster), which present enhanced performance-related capabilities and redundancy, as well as proven cloud solutions such as Java Cloud Service.
Q: What technology provides ICS’s main integration capabilities?
A: Oracle has leveraged a set of bona fide middleware technologies (e.g., Oracle Service Bus 12c, Oracle SOA Suite 12c and WebLogic Server 12c) to provide a number of advanced capabilities: dynamic routing, flow control, adapter integration, data model transformation, asynchronous queuing, etc. The front-end has been built using Alta UI to deliver the best possible UX.
Q: How do we request and/or create new adapters so we can integrate with diverse SaaS providers for which Oracle has not yet provided a connector?
A: Developers can use Oracle's Cloud Adapter SDK to build new ready-to-use connectors in a simple, standardized fashion. A “Cloud Marketplace” will also be available for Oracle PaaS subscribers. Consumers will be able to browse, pay for and subsequently reuse custom adapters developed by third parties, as well as to publish and commercialize their own creations.
Putting it simply, the idea behind Oracle ICS is: Subscribe -> Design & Configure -> Activate -> Voila!
A Practical Approach
Let’s go ahead and tackle a real-life use case (using fictitious names), in which we require an adequate integration architecture.
These are the facts:
- A non-IT focused company, XYZ Corp, has been acquiring a number of cloud-based subscriptions, including Oracle’s Public Cloud, as part of an effort to reduce costs, modernize its technology platform, and eliminate high-maintenance legacy apps and underutilized Enterprise Information Systems (e.g.,Oracle EBS and JD Edwards).
- One of these subscriptions corresponds to Oracle’s Fusion Applications Stack, particularly Oracle Service Cloud (RightNow), which is intended to automatize the company’s Contact Center.
- As part of their expansion strategy, XYZ has recently acquired a sales agency that uses Oracle Sales Cloud, a SaaS application that focuses on customer engagement, deal closing and sales intelligence.
Here's the integration scenario that must be resolved:
- Corporate policy dictates that every incident must be captured and managed through RightNow.
- The sales agency bought by XYZ is highly efficient, and will retain most of its autonomy regarding the way they operate. XYZ doesn’t want to tangle with anything, especially the Sales process, so Fusion Sales Cloud will also be staying for the foreseeable future.
- Both RightNow and Sales Cloud can swiftly automatize business processes; however, their integration would demand a completely manual step.
- The lack of automated integration means not only delay but also data loss, human error, bottlenecks and lack of communication between the Contact Center and Sales business units.
How can implementing a cloud-to-cloud integration solution improve this situation? Let’s analyze some of the options (good and bad) being evaluated by XYZ.
a. Cloud <-> On Premises <-> Cloud: One possibility is to automatize the data flow between RightNow (RN) and Sales Cloud (SC) by offloading required data sets into XYZ's on-premise platform. Once the information is there, they figure that SOA Suite (which XYZ has licensed and installed) can transform and route the required messages. The caveat here is that besides the SOA Suite implementation, which looks fairly easy, a set of much more complex activities would arise regarding the establishment of secure channels, whether it’s an SSL tunnel or a host-to-host VPN. Even though this kind of solution is feasible, it implies a full development project involving several participants and highly specialized knowledge; moreover, the investment in design, development, infrastructure, testing, etc., as well as the resulting TCO may be too much for such a small integration requirement.
b. Cloud -> Cloud (point to point): Interface the applications through direct file transfer. Testing shows that at least part of the solution (one-way traffic from SC to RN) could be achieved in terms of programming; however, such customization has been frowned upon by the IT architecture guys because it would introduce a negative and tight form of coupling between the SaaS applications, making the business process sensitive to updates, version changes, and so on.
c. Cloud - Cloud (with iPaaS: Adopting an iPaaS model for cloud-to-cloud Integration would imply only the subscription’s cost and a minimum effort required to configure the required data flows between SC and RN:
In this case, taking into account the characteristics already discussed, Oracle ICS would be the solution of choice. Another benefit of ICS is that the adapters for both SC and RN are already available, so integration with those tools is just a few clicks away. With this approach, SLAs are guaranteed by the cloud provider, and XYZ would also have access to tracking and monitoring interfaces for its integrations. And, unlike with the other two alternatives, product updates and version changes, etc., wouldn’t be a major concern for XYZ.
- As has been made clear by the use case, iPaaS is the most adequate and dynamic option for cloud integration scenarios in the modern industry.
- Regarding Cloud Architectures, it is very important to stay away from traditional point-to-point integrations in order to avoid ending up with a spaghetti of interfaces. The whole point of cloud-based solutions is to simplify the IT landscape, reduce TCO, and increase the performance/reliability of our information systems.
- Oracle’s ICS is a highly robust and enterprise-ready cloud integration platform that can quickly unlock a whole set of technical and business opportunities for organizations with cloud strategies.
About the Authors
Arturo Viveros is an outstanding Mexican professional currently based in Oslo, Norway, with 11 years of experience in the development, design, architecture and delivery of IT Projects for a variety of industries. He is also a regular speaker in technology conferences, both in Mexico and abroad. He is an Oracle ACE and works as principal architect in Sysco Middleware. Arturo is also part of the coordinating committee for ORAMEX (Oracle User Group in Mexico) and has recently achieved the Oracle SOA Certified IT Architect certification as well as the Cloud Certified Architect and SOA Certified Architect grades from Arcitura Inc. He is a certified trainer authorized to deliver the SOA School and Cloud School modules both in English and in Spanish. Arturo is also a regular contributor to SOA Magazine, Service Technology Magazine, the Oracle Technology Network.
Joel Perez is an Expert DBA (Oracle ACE Director, OCM Cloud Admin.and OCM11g ) with over 15 years of real world experience with Oracle technologies, specializing in the design and implementation of solutions: High Availability, Disaster Recovery, Upgrades, Replication, Tuning, Cloud and all areas related to Oracle Databases. As an international consultant he has served clients and participated in conferences and activities in more than 50 countries on 5 continents. A prolific writer, Joel has published technical articles for OTN in Spanish and Portugese, and is a regular speaker at Oracle events worldwide, including OTN LAD (Latin America), OTN MENA (Middle East & Africa), OTN APAC (Asian Pacific), DTCC China, and more. Recognized as a pioneer in Oracle technology, Joel was the first Latin American awarded “OTN Expert of the Year” (in 2003), and was one of the first to be awarded Oracle ACE status (2004). Joel was also one of the first OCP Database Cloud Administrators (2013), and, in the biggest professional achievement in his career, was honored as the one of the first “OCM Database Cloud Administrators” in the world. Currently Joel works for Yunhe Enmo (Beijing) Technology Co., Ltd.
This article represents the expertise, findings, and opinions of the authors. It has been published by Oracle in this space as part of a larger effort to encourage the exchange of such information within this Community, and to promote evaluation and commentary by peers. This article has not been reviewed by the relevant Oracle product team for compliance with Oracle's standards and practices, and its publication should not be interpreted as an endorsement by Oracle of the statements expressed therein.