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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

Applications Suites or Best of Breed in the Cloud?

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Lauren Carlson asked a question in the Application Strategy 2.0 that most IT departments had to, are or will be confronted with. Do you chose an Integrated Suite or Best of Breed (BoB) solutions?  The answer looks more complicated now by the growing Cloud adoption trend. 
A Suite adoption decision, while apparently difficult, has been made more often than not. Difficult because one has to adopt all functions in a suite at the same time. Because the transformation is not really a transition but more of a cutover. Typically, ERP like enterprise functions would be implemented as a Suite. Suites often mean though dependency (costly to migrate from) on one provider. 
 
The Best of Breed solutions will allow you to pace the transformation. Usually this is the case for core applications. 
Integration is critical though. But integration was always a problem in the enterprise, mostly implemented as an afterthought. 
The Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) technology was introduced to alleviate the issue. Then SOA. But SOA was buried alive. And dead it is, because few SOA endeavours succeeded to deliver. The service oriented principles are alive though. The problem was that SOA was treated as a technology alone rather than a business design paradigm based on Enterprise services. And business was not enticed to support the efforts. It didn't help that services had to be re-invented in various forms and shapes in each and every enterprise even though they are pretty similar in nature, at least for an industry. Also, services are part of end to end processes, which were and are still not standardised either. Have these problems been solved? Not really.

Suites often won because they delivered both functionality and integration. Does the case change with the Cloud though? The Cloud provides an on-demand, pay as you go business model for both Suites and BoBs. Quick adoption, provisioning, scaling and no upfront CAPEX. And SaaS services are effectively SOA services in the Cloud.  Moreover, today, business would often bypass IT to procure these outsourced services. This is because the Silo culture is still alive and well and well, IT is not really necessary in the process. 
How does one integrate these services though? You will see probably IT system integrators waving their flags to design it for you. And service aggregation brokers that do the integration in their own cloud. 

We need though a hybrid cloud that is, a mixture between on-premise and on-cloud.  How do we integrate the two worlds from a functional, security and management viewpoint?  
Is there a Cloud Integration Middleware, a Cloud Service Bus (CSB) or a Cloud Integration Service? There are.  
Boomi provides a Cloud integration platform Atom Sphere integrating "on-premise and cloud computing environments in a seamless and fully self-service model... users could build and deploy integration processes visually using a design "canvas" with familiar point and click, drag and drop techniques". Or CastIron, an IBM company now. 

But does the Cloud integration make BoB solutions more attractive to adopt? Yes, when end to end processes will be extended over many SaaS clouds, that is integration is  applied not only at the application but at the process and rules level. i.e. process Orchestration in the Cloud.  See Loraine Lawson's interview on Hubspan.

How does one choose between a Suite and BoB? Suites are also been moved to the cloud. Suites for ERP like functionality maybe still the choice. Because they offer integration at data and process level as well. For core business applications, BoBs maybe the choice though with Cloud integration platforms. 

But where does all this slowly lead us to, i.e. BoBs or Suites in the cloud? To the Cloud Enterprise I dare say.

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Questions you need to ask (1) how much integration is really necessary, and (2) what will the different approaches (integrated suite, BoB, cloud) cost?

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Adrian Grigoriu blogs about everything relating to enterprise and business architecture, SOA, frameworks, design, planning, execution, organization and related issues.

Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and chief architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy senior manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of two books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends, the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011.

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