As new systems emerge across enterprises, data tends to be siloed and used for specific purposes. Cloud integration is the process of bringing data together from different sources — applications, on-premises systems and cloud services like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce and Snowflake. The data works as one unit, giving you:
- Anytime access to all your data from multiple devices
- A standard, cohesive view into all your data
- Faster operating speed
Cloud computing has become essential with the advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud-based delivery of applications. SaaS helps you access the speed and efficiency boosts of cloud integration platforms.
Types of cloud integration
There are two types of cloud integration: data integration and application integration.
Cloud data integration brings together data from different repositories. Sometimes this happens exclusively in the cloud with data created or migrated there. But, the data integration process can also combine cloud data with on-premises legacy servers or mainframe systems. ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) is an example of cloud data integration. Data integration lets you:
- Batch process large volumes of data at once
- Bring data into a repository such as a data lake or data warehouse
- Cleanse data, so it’s ready for analysis
- Apply data quality measures
- Protect and mask data to keep it secure
Cloud application integration, on the other hand, connects applications, so they can communicate with each other, which is useful for cloud computing and business processes. With application integration, you can:
- Discover, connect, access and use your data in real time
- Improve workflows
- Modernize your infrastructure
- Build models based on data insights
- Write programs for AI and machine learning to predict future behavior
Seven benefits of cloud integration
Cloud integration propels businesses forward in many ways. Here are the top seven benefits:
- Breaks down data silos
- Enables business agility
- Boosts connectivity
- Saves time and money
- Operates at scale
- Improves data quality and accuracy
- Powers analytics
Cloud integration seamlessly brings together the data that helps businesses run, from sales and operational plans to strategy and financial plans. Communication is easier. Workflows are smoother. You can deliver goods and services more efficiently and better predict and fulfill the needs of your customers.
Because cloud integration allows you to work with different data formats across different data systems, you can launch new services, products and applications faster. And, you can more quickly respond to changing market environments and business opportunities to stay competitive.
Cloud integration unites and synchronizes your applications. Your information stays readily available anytime with application programming interface (API) calls.
With cloud integration, you can combine data and applications quickly and easily with automation — no need to handwrite code (which can be costly).
Scalability is key to processing particularly large amounts of enterprise data. Standby cloud applications can quickly process and integrate data at scale on the order of petabytes.
During the data integration process, the data is cleaned and prepped before it is stored in a data warehouse.
Cloud data integration brings all the data together in a highly accessible ecosystem. The data has been cleaned and is ready for analysis. So, you can easily apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) anytime you want.
Cloud integration solutions
Cloud integration includes both cloud data and cloud application integration. Centralizing all your data into a cloud data center will ensure you get more out of your data. But, as useful as cloud integration is, you’ll want to include other solutions in your digital transformation strategy.
Make connections with APIs
Once your data is integrated, you’ll need to build data pipelines based on all the information you’ve accessed and prepared, the models you’ve built and the algorithms you've used. The pipeline feeds your applications, such as your ecommerce site or customer management system. Intelligent APIs are pipelines that connect your lines of businesses, customers and partners.
See data and relationships with master data management
Master data management (MDM) gives you a single source of truth. You can view business-critical data from a central location and get 360-degree insight into data connections, interactions and relationships using AI and ML.
Get broad ecosystem support at scale with iPaaS
An integration platform as a service (iPaaS) makes it possible for your master data management to combine and exchange data between applications. With iPaaS, you can build, launch and govern integration flows that connect the data, services and applications within your cloud ecosystem.
Maintain data quality with a built-in program
You’ll want a built-in data quality program to monitor, identify and fix data quality problems in your cloud and on-premises business applications.
Extend data integration to your business partners with EDI
Look for a program that lets you streamline and expedite B2B relationships. Electronic data interchange (EDI) exchanges business information between computers in a structured, standardized manner that makes data easy to consume.
Manage your finances seamlessly
Financial data management should let you do more than look at automated financial reports for business liquidity and profitability. You’ll want to compare account structures across systems, collaborate with accountants across your enterprise and easily manage accounts, cost centers, account codes, legal entities and other financial data. An AI-powered master data management program will give you a 360-degree view of your finances across your business.
Manage reference data
Reference data sets can be difficult to manage. Look for a cloud-based reference management program that is user-friendly, configurable and shareable.
Connect analysts to your data for real-time insights
Your analysts and SaaS administrators need real-time insights from cloud applications, so be sure to have cloud connectors capable of handling hundreds of cloud, on-premises, mobile and social data sources.
How different industries use cloud integration
While the process of cloud integration is the same across industries, the use cases vary. Here’s a snapshot.
Data silos can harm patient care. Cloud integration enables interoperability and patient-first care by strengthening provider communication and opening up patient access to health records and applications aimed at improving health outcomes.
State and local governments such as police departments and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) use cloud integration to provide online services such as vehicle registration renewal, home remodel permitting and voter registration. Federal taxing and security agencies also integrate massive amounts of data with cloud integration.
Cloud integration helps manufacturing industries manage product quality by integrating data from engineering systems, parts, assemblies, supply chains and shipping.
Banks integrate checking, savings, mortgage, credit card and call center data to provide each customer a unified service experience. Cloud integration also helps banking personnel anticipate a person’s financial needs and cross-sell or upsell other financial services or investments.
Cloud integration is essential for gathering massive amounts of data on the risk factors and effects of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 as well as recruiting research subjects and tracking them through clinical trials of a vaccine. This helps vaccine developers expedite the production and delivery of vaccines.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many companies to conduct business entirely online. Rather than build their own data centers, they quickly turned to the cloud for smooth day-to-day operations.
The need to pivot proves cloud integration capabilities
In a time when some businesses struggle to keep the lights on, others come out ahead. Their secret: harnessing the power of cloud services, including cloud integration.
Cloud data integration enables quick response
Japan for UNHCR (J4U) staff responded quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks in part to cloud data integration. As a member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the nonprofit agency protects refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assists in their voluntary repatriation or resettlement. The agency runs on donations, but social distancing requirements hampered in-person fundraising.
Fortunately, J4U had already set up a centralized data repository and could quickly spin up a cloud contact center. As donations and contact data flow smoothly in and out of the agency, integrations keep their virtual call center synchronized with Salesforce. They’ve reduced manual processes and improved operating efficiency. By keeping operating costs low, they can channel more donations directly to refugees and displaced people.
Cloud integration helps build brand loyalty
Moving to the cloud is a big part of the omnichannel strategy of Reitmans Limited, a specialty women’s clothing store chain located in Canada. Online sales were booming — and then the pandemic hit.
To grow their business, Reitmans decided to move to the cloud. Today, the company is thriving both financially (with increased ecommerce revenues) and from customer loyalty and trust.
Reitmans chose the Informatica Intelligent Data Management Cloud platform, a service that includes cloud data integration and cloud application integration. Data management is simplified, and customers experience a seamless buyer journey that includes real-time tracking between order fulfillment and order tracking.
Cloud integration solutions from an industry leader
No matter what industry you’re in, your cloud integration solution needs to be simple, intuitive and capable of processing data at scale. Informatica is a recognized leader in the data management industry, offering a variety of cloud integration products to help propel your business into the future.
If you are new to data integration or simply want to refresh the foundational concepts then join our "Back to Basics – Data Integration webinar series".