Integration as a Lever for Cloud Transition

How integration can simplify and expedite the transition to the cloud.

1. Executive Summary

With the rise and widespread acceptance of cloud computing, it becomes increasingly logical for organizations to migrate significant portions of their application landscape to the cloud.

Cloud technology enables organizations to bring innovative solutions into production more quickly to meet the needs of their customers and internal stakeholders. Consider solutions with integrated chatbots and advanced analytics, such as machine learning.

What should you consider, and what challenges are there?

The cloud demands a fresh perspective on business, IT, and organization. It provides the opportunity to bridge the gap between business and IT and increase the value of information technology for the organization, provided that the corresponding organization also undergoes a transformation.

In this paper, we offer you a cloud transition roadmap consisting of three phases: Experiment, Migrate, and Transform. The focus in this document is on the Migration phase, where your first step is to establish your hybrid cloud architecture, which is your technical and organizational foundation

Establishing a hybrid cloud architecture, incorporating both technical and organizational aspects, is crucial for implementing a strong foundation that accelerates innovation, delivers business value, and is manageable.

System Integration as the Key and Lever for Cloud Transition

It is our belief that system integration is crucial for the cloud transition. Integration is the key to a hybrid cloud architecture and will also be a lever to expedite the cloud transition. Simultaneously, integration can help structure and manage the transition effectively.

How to structure and even expedite the cloud transition? You will find the answers in this paper.

2. Why a Cloud Transition?

With the rapid rise and widespread acceptance of cloud computing, it is becoming increasingly logical for organizations to migrate significant portions of their application landscape to the cloud. But why should you transition to cloud computing in the first place?

Transitioning to the cloud enables you to innovate more rapidly, meet customer demands, leverage new possibilities that were previously out of reach, and genuinely undergo digital transformation by creating more value in the ecosystem.

3. A New Perspective on Business and IT

The cloud is a 'big deal' and demands a new perspective on business, IT, and organization. It provides the opportunity to bridge the gap between business and IT and maximize the business value that information technology delivers, provided that the associated organization also undergoes transformation. What should you consider, and what challenges will you encounter in the cloud transition?

What are the challenges?

Moving to the cloud represents a significant shift on both the technical and organizational fronts. It may mean that your relationships with (chain) partners will undergo changes. Your current hosting provider or outsourcing partner may not always be ready to assist with the transition or may be unwilling to cooperate because it threatens their business model.

Connecting Business and IT

However, organizations must move forward, and especially in the realms of integration, data, and apps, there are promising technical possibilities for digital transformation. By incorporating the connection between business and IT directly during the transition to the cloud, not only will several technical doors open, but an organization will also emerge that continues to benefit from the latest developments, delivering quickly measurable results.

A Cloud Competence Center (CCC) is an effective vehicle for continually incorporating such new developments. The CCC consists of a group of individuals within your organization where innovation, governance, and adoption take center stage. You can learn more about this in the chapter 'The Hybrid Cloud Architecture' on page 10 of this paper.

The technical aspect: Changing integrations

Migrating applications to the cloud entails that various application integrations must be changed on the technical side. Often, this also means making a shift from 1:1 integrations to integration based on a platform, such as Azure iPaaS (Integration-Platform-as-a-Service). Often, batch-oriented integrations must be replaced by event-driven integrations based on APIs, as modern SaaS applications typically do not support batch processing. Additionally, your organization probably wants to integrate in real-time because the entire economy has become real-time.

Integration as a lever towards the cloud

By prioritizing integration and using it as a lever towards the cloud, you can bring structure to your transition, accelerate the shift, and increase the chances of success. By embedding integration knowledge within the organization, a CCC is formed, continuously engaged in innovative developments and their structured incorporation into the architecture, organization, and processes.

There is still a place for the traditional hosting provider in the transition, but under your central direction, its role will gradually diminish. Especially in the beginning, you'll need to find a good form of collaboration.

4. Your Cloud Transition Roadmap

You've seen the challenges and considerations involved in the cloud transition. How can you best put the cloud transition into practice and structure it? We'll briefly discuss the technical prerequisites and provide you with a template for your own cloud transition roadmap, consisting of three stages.

Technical Prerequisites and Considerations

Nowadays, every organization has a policy that prioritizes SaaS and PaaS over self-hosted applications or private cloud. In practice, this means that there are various projects within a larger 'cloud transition' program, migrating applications to the cloud one by one.

SaaS solutions are preferred for commodity functionality, and solutions based on standard PaaS building blocks are favored for custom-made solutions. At the same time, various other innovation projects and system changes are also in progress.

Define the hybrid cloud architecture

Before a transition to the cloud can be effectively carried out, you must first determine the hybrid cloud architecture. This encompasses both the technical architecture and organizational aspects.

The cloud transition can be broadly divided into three phases, which you can use to structure your journey:

  1. Experiment: In this phase, you explore what can be done with cloud technology. It often begins with a proof-of-concept (PoC) tied to a business case.
  2. Migrate: After conducting several PoCs, the decision is made to migrate the initial applications. This often starts with migrating to SaaS services, such as CRM or collaboration environments like Microsoft 365. Following that, PaaS and possibly IaaS are used to modernize other applications. Establishing an Azure Landing Zone is necessary for this.
  3. Transform: After significant digitalization, true transformation through new customer channels and ecosystem collaboration becomes possible. Integration also plays a crucial role here.

5. The Hybrid Cloud Architecture

Your cloud transition roadmap comprises three stages, with the second stage being the establishment of a hybrid cloud architecture.

Before you begin broader implementation of cloud services and integration realization, it's advisable to develop the hybrid cloud architecture as the first step. The hybrid cloud architecture is a description of how your application landscape will look in the cloud.

We start with a baseline measurement, where, based on our Hybrid Cloud Reference Architecture, your current application landscape is mapped out. For each application, it becomes clear what the most suitable transition path is.

The Components of Your Hybrid Cloud Architecture

The hybrid cloud architecture includes, at a minimum, the following aspects:

  • Technical Architecture – What is the role of integration and how does Azure PaaS fit into the application landscape? More on this in the next chapter. How do we connect it to the existing infrastructure? How do we configure the Azure Landing Zone to best match the organizational structure?
  • Identity & Access Management and Security – How do we authenticate and authorize users, and how do we handle data security in transit and at rest? How do we ensure the smoothest possible single sign-on experience?
  • Architectural Principles & Requirements – What principles must the architecture adhere to, and how do we enforce technological choices? How will the cloud architecture continue to evolve? What criteria must new solutions landing in this hybrid cloud meet? What role does integration play, and which integration patterns do we apply when?
  • Required IT Organization – What IT organizational structure fits best with this new hybrid cloud architecture? How is management divided between the existing hosting provider and the in-house organization? Is it time for a DevOps organization where domain-specific teams develop and maintain new solutions? How do we set up and integrate the CCC (Cloud Competence Center) within the organization?

Based on this cloud architecture, you can implement your Azure environment and connect it to the on-premises environment, often hosted by an external provider.

This Azure environment will be used for both iPaaS and custom extensions to SaaS services. Customizations, such as those developed for Microsoft 365, are preferably hosted in Azure PaaS or realized using the Power Platform.

How do you then determine the right transition path for all the applications in use within your organization?

Different Paths for Application Cloud Transition

For various applications in your IT environment, it may be more or less logical to fully move them to SaaS or PaaS cloud environments. Consultancy firm Gartner distinguishes between five forms of application transitions. These are the five R's you can use to find the right place for your different applications within your hybrid cloud architecture:

  • Retire – The application is difficult to migrate and has only a limited number of users left. The critical functions can be transferred to other applications, preferably in the form of SaaS. Afterward, this legacy application can be decommissioned.
  • Rehost – There's no modern alternative available for the application, and there are still sufficient active users. The application can run on a virtual machine before it's moved to the cloud (IaaS) to reduce operational costs. This is also known as Lift & Shift
  • Retain and Wrap – The application still has many users but isn't easy to migrate. By exposing critical functions as APIs through an integration layer in PaaS (iPaaS), the application can be integrated into the landscape. This allows the System of Record to connect to the Systems of Differentiation & Innovation.
  • Replace – There's a SaaS alternative for the application that offers better features and is cheaper to maintain. The application can be migrated. The SaaS application may potentially replace multiple applications simultaneously.
  • Reenvision – The application is outdated but of such importance that it's essential to reconsider the architecture. By partially or entirely redeveloping the application according to a modern PaaS-based architecture, you can leverage the latest technological possibilities.

6. Integration as the Key for Cloud Transition

Integration is the key to a hybrid cloud architecture and will also serve as a lever to expedite the cloud transition. Simultaneously, integration can help structure and manage the transition effectively. Azure iPaaS forms the core of your modern, mostly cloud-based application landscape.

With a well-structured hybrid cloud architecture and the accompanying CCC (Cloud Competence Center), you bring the cloud transition under control and structure. Integration is a vital component of the hybrid cloud architecture, and knowledge of integration is a crucial part of the organization. Integration is, therefore, critical for the cloud transition.

How Integration Becomes a Lever for Cloud Transition

Shape integration in your hybrid cloud architecture based on modern Azure iPaaS: Azure Integration Services. This way, your organization is technically best prepared for the future. Modern integration thus becomes the key and lever for your cloud transition:

  • Integrations (1-to-1 or through an integration layer) will change as applications move and transform. Doing this immediately based on a modern iPaaS architecture simplifies and speeds up the connection of cloud-based applications - now and in the future.
  • Integration with SaaS and PaaS services cannot be accomplished using traditional on-premises integration middleware. SaaS applications require a different approach to integration, especially based on APIs and event-driven architecture. At the same time, the use of modern, PaaS-based integration provides new opportunities, such as extending business processes with cognitive services, bots, and machine learning to make processes smarter.
  • Integration architects and specialists have always focused on integrating both in-house and external systems (B2B and B2C integration). Knowledge of these systems, process flows, integration architecture and patterns, and the use of the right integration platform are crucial in a hybrid cloud architecture and Cloud Competence Center.
  • Last but not least, digital transformation is about digitizing on one hand and creating ecosystems that deliver added value to customers on the other. Think, for instance, of the ecosystem of Uber or food delivery services. Such ecosystems communicate through integration, based on APIs.

"APIs make digital society and digital business work"

People working around a wooden table together and looking at data

Why iPaas?

All new integrations, especially those with cloud services, are best realized with iPaaS (Integration-Platform-as-a-Service). Microsoft Azure Integration Services are exceptionally well-suited for this purpose.

Microsoft's iPaaS, consisting primarily of Azure Logic Apps, Event Grid, Service Bus, API Apps, and API Management, offers all the capabilities to implement both cloud and hybrid integrations with a very short time-to-market.

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