Until about ten years ago, the common approach to integrating and automating applications was by coding. It was usually complex and probably understood by only a few developers working on the integration. Every time a new application was deployed, developers had to write more code. Each integration was a point-to-point development, and the term spaghetti integration came into being. Then in 2011 Gartner introduced a new concept, and a new solution set, Integration platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS). This application platform provided a new approach to the automation challenge by allowing organizations to reduce the clutter of integration code and integrate with a growing number of cloud solutions.
Legacy integration approaches
Batch file updates and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) were the initial integration approaches, but they became unwieldy in multiple application environments. This was replaced by message-oriented middleware (MOM) which was used for sending and receiving messages between distributed systems. The disadvantage with MOM was that it added an additional service, the message broker, which made maintaining the system more complex. Also, message-based communication is essentially asynchronous whereas many applications require synchronous communications. The enterprise service bus (ESB) became popular because its hub-and-spoke architecture supported synchronous communications. It was particularly useful inside organizations. However, only larger businesses could afford the costs and infrastructure to operate it.
Then came service-oriented architecture (SOA) which enabled systems to be architected so that integration was independent of product, technology or vendor. SOA, popularized by Microsoft's .NET architecture, allowed developers to work on individual systems as independent services rather than as isolated silos of information. The problem was it required skills in coding, such as learning .NET, and could become difficult to manage as the number of services increased.
With the growth of cloud applications after 2000, and advent of APIs that came with it, the integration of new platforms and legacy applications became a very complex undertaking. This lead to new integration solutions that could straddle the multiplicity of on-premise, cloud, data storage and API frameworks, and reduce the burden of integration coding.
Growth of low code
An integration platform is a low-code solution that enables ease of use and fast implementation at a lower cost. These platforms allow organizations to create applications through a graphical user interface, instead of traditional programming, and so reduces hand-coding to a minimum, standardizes practices, and improves governance.
Low-code platforms are quickly becoming the standard across automation and integration solutions. Forrester Research predicts that 75% of all application development will use low-code platforms this year, up from 44% in 2020. As impacts of the global pandemic persist into 2021, businesses will continue to look for low-code applications to address data challenges and support remote work across multiple systems and workflows. The focus on customer centric experiences will also help drive the growth of integration and improved time to value, made easy with low-code solutions.
Low-code data integration and automation
The pandemic, and the proliferation of remote work, demonstrated the importance of getting data to people who need it wherever they are. A low-code automation platform offers an agile approach to integration and automation, allowing developers to consolidate and synchronize various data sources much more quickly than legacy integration solutions.
Automation is often an after-thought of a development project. But research by Gartner pointed out that integration and automation work would account for 50% of the time and cost of building a digital platform; therefore, greater investments should be made into data automation today to save time and money in the future.
By opting for an automation platform that has low-code capabilities, instead of traditional coding, businesses get several benefits.
- Focus on the outcome and get from idea to solution faster
- Simplify IT architecture
- Establish and maintain integration standards
- Lowers the skills barrier for developers who want to connect data endpoints
- Decreases the integration workload of IT
- Reduce maintenance on integration through standardization of connections and APIs
- Improve governance as integration standards are easier to enforce
Data automation that enables low-code
A data automation platform like Synatic delivers all the capabilities typically found in ESBs, data integration tools, B2B gateways, managed file transfer products and API management platforms. It contains the features and capabilities that enable a low-code integration and automation environment.
- Pre-built connectors, data mappings and transformation rules
- Drag-and-drop functionality that enables faster development of integration flows
- Automated connection of applications across different environments
- Encourages the re-use of common integration patterns
- Centralizes the portfolio of data automation
- Provides a platform for integration teams to collaborate
Data automation in insurance
Many insurance companies have legacy transactional and in-house systems that operate in silos. Data integration is necessary to create an enterprise data platform that provides a “single version of the truth.” This not only helps fulfill regulatory requirements, but also can be the starting point to enable “data-driven” decision making, process automation, and make the company easier to do business with.
PSA Insurance & Financial Services used the Synatic data automation platform to integrate data across disparate siloed systems and automate several internal data integration processes. This reduced the problem of manual entry errors and ensured client information was consistent across all applications.
When the world moved to a remote workforce in 2020, businesses looked for ways to do more with what they had. Some key initiatives were providing consolidated data about customers, synchronizing data across different systems to streamline operations, and creating a data-driven architecture to increase collaboration across dispersed teams. These were key requirements for companies that wanted to develop an innovation-focused culture.
Synatic's data automation platform is a container-based integration architecture that is quicker and more scalable than legacy integration tools. It lets organizations react to new requirements for complex integration with the flexibility that comes with a digital native solution, enabling them to gain access to the right information, in the right place, at the right time.