By Leo Leung, Vice President, Product Management, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
For as long as we’ve had computers, we’ve had to make them work together, even when they’re sold by different providers. I can’t think of any business that has relied on a single technology vendor – or even a single technology stack – for all its needs. It’s also true that companies rarely ditch established-but-still-working technology for totally new systems because of the severe risk, and usually considerable downtime.
That pragmatic model is holding strong in the cloud computing epoch. So, while a brand new “cloud-native” implementation can in theory be the best option in many instances, many companies running pre-cloud technology want to keep getting value out of older systems while also modernizing them.
1. Change happens fast — but not that fast
Let’s face it: Any technology will live on for as long as it’s useful. Just look at the mainframe. Launched during the WWII era, computing’s “big iron” dominated tech for decades. But in 1991 with the rise of PCs and client-server computing, one respected tech journalist made headlines by predicting that the last mainframe would be unplugged within 5 years. That would be news to the banks and other enterprises that continue depending on mainframes 37 years past that deadline.
Researchers agree that, despite talk of massive cloud adoption, the bulk of IT dollars still flow to on-premises or traditional platforms. But, they also concur that the trend is shifting cloud-wards.
Spending for on-premises software accounted for 69% of total software investment in 2020, but by 2025, 58% of software spending will be in cloud, predicts IDC.
2. Preserve investments in IT that still work
So, the move of most IT to cloud looks inevitable but still won’t happen tomorrow even though we are well into the second decade of public cloud adoption. This is why companies need tech partners to meet them where they are and offer a path to the cloud that doesn’t obviate previous IT investments.
Oracle, for example, offers more than 80 adapters for popular third-party software including Salesforce, SAP, Marketo, Microsoft SQL Server, Paypal, ServiceNow, and Workday. Together with another 300 prebuilt integrations, these supported connectors enable customers to easily move data between applications and cloud APIs where it can be used by new web services. Adapters and integrations are available both from Oracle and from a roster of partners on the Oracle Cloud Marketplace.
These adapters allow companies to keep wringing value from data stored and processed in on-prem systems while moving toward a modern digital deployment model.
In addition, Oracle SOA integration software will move existing on-premises Oracle applications, as is, to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) public cloud. That means businesses can continue running their proven systems until they decide to modernize further. The key point here is this big shift will happen on the customer’s timetable, not some gigantic cloud vendor’s schedule.
3. Integrate applications and platforms
The notion of integration goes beyond linking legacy systems to newer cloud technology. It also requires connecting applications and data, often from different vendors, into a single process.
Many companies, for example, use customer experience (CX) or customer relationship management software from one vendor but need to funnel leads and sales into an accounting or ERP application from another provider. Pre-built adapters can make that happen in days instead of months.
UK’s busy Heathrow Airport, modernized its operations by moving to Oracle Fusion Cloud and integrating third-party software such as Azure AD directory services, IBM Maximo asset management, and Office 365 SharePoint collaboration software, with help from partners Capgemini and Flexagon.
And, to best serve its fast-growing residential lending businesses, Angel Oak Lending needed to automate manual processes among its various subsidiaries. It accomplished this by integrating data from disparate systems into unified dashboards executives can use to manage the business more effectively.
Working with partner Knex, OCI Integration services was used to automate a three-way match between its financing facilities, its loan origination system, and bank data housed in Oracle Fusion Cloud. As a result, it was able to slash the time it takes to process loan originations by 63% and speed up new partner onboarding by 4X.
“We use OCI Integration to automate transactions so we can focus on higher-value activities that grow the business,” said Angel Oak Lending’s CFO Ravi Correa.
4. Support professional and low-code development
Businesses also need to support the use of toolsets their developers can use not only to build and tweak custom applications but to integrate them to each other. That means supporting a range of programming languages such as Java used by professionals, as well as low-code tools like Oracle Apex, that enable non-technical people to create applications as well.
IDC, which estimates that 30% of organizations now successfully run their own in-house development, counsels businesses to encourage all employees – not just trained software developers—to create their own productivity-enhancing applications. This is one way to address a growing skills shortage, according to Maureen Fleming, program vice president for IDC’s Intelligent Process Automation research group.
A combination of easy-to-use low-code tooling and pre-built adapters can go a long way to easing software integration issues.
5. Cloud is the goal, but there are multiple ways to achieve it
The benefits of public cloud’s scale, agility, and power are well documented. But a move to the cloud should not require businesses to discard existing and useful technologies that are in many cases what’s paying the bills.
But no one should be deceived into thinking that cloud transitions need to be instantaneous or all-encompassing. Each business will need to create its own plan, based on what is already in place, what options make the most sense going forward – and what options let it move to the cloud in a way that is least disruptive to its operations.
The age-old problem of making disparate IT systems work together has not gone away with cloud. Fortunately, better tools now exist that allow businesses to pick and choose what they keep, what they switch – and when.