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Application integration has always been a thorny problem. Add in the inherent design restrictions of software as a service--think islands, not exactly designed to exchange data--and things get even trickier. Fortunately, there are some products and best practices that can make your apps work together.
And make no mistake: Integration is a pressing issue. In our recent InformationWeek Analytics 2011 Enterprise Applications Survey, we found 43% of 314 respondents are using SaaS applications. But when we asked them to rate their satisfaction with nine aspects of these apps, deployment simplicity came out on top--and ease of integrating these services with on-premises systems and data sources landed at the bottom of the list.
So, why are we adopting SaaS at a steady clip if we haven't found a good way to securely link these apps with one another and in-house systems? You'd think IT teams would have learned their lesson, given our sad history with siloed data sets and today's identity management and user access requirements.
We work with a number of CIOs who are determined to create unified IT environments incorporating a mix of platforms and SaaS and in-house applications. We find they run into problems in six key areas:
>> Identity and access orchestration is usually at the top of the list of pain points. The ability to rapidly verify who's accessing your systems is mandatory for security and compliance. With SaaS applications, we find there's a much higher risk of failing to disable access after people leave or to modify permissions as roles change. That's because access is typically a centralized and automated function, using access-control systems with well-established ties into enterprise applications--ties that rarely extend into SaaS provider networks.
>> Compliance reporting is also a challenge. Companies subject to Sarbanes-Oxley, for example, must be able to cull a variety of log information. While most SaaS vendors enable IT to run these reports from within their systems, if you have a number of SaaS apps from different providers, consolidating this data must be done manually. Yet automation is the only way to effectively build compliance reports involving multiple logs.
>> Information silos aren't conducive to business analytics either, and without SaaS integration, reporting capabilities will be limited. As with logs, most SaaS systems are pretty good about reporting within the application, but dynamically analyzing data from multiple services is a whole different story.
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