Cloud computing is still in its infancy, but its acceptance and adoption is unquestionably on the rise, creating the next monumental shift in computing deployment models. With today’s current economic climate, cloud computing has now become an even more attractive solution. The cloud allows IT-related capabilities to be provided “as a service” over the Internet and encompasses the terms software as a service, service-oriented architecture and Web 2.0.  If implemented correctly, companies can leverage cloud computing to extend their existing technology investments and have a positive impact on bottom-line results within a very short operating horizon. Cloud-based solutions offer low start-up costs and rapid deployment, delivering quantifiable results in weeks rather than months – a significant advantage in today’s business climate. Financial struggles will remain on the horizon for the foreseeable future and affect companies of all sizes. Daily headlines report delays in further investment in hardware and software purchases due to unfavorable credit terms. Given the current economic turmoil, it is difficult for IT leaders to navigate the best path for short- and long-term success. Cloud computing provides a bright ray of light through the gloomy reports. Because cloud computing offers organizations a more cost-effective means of acquiring and utilizing IT solutions and services, many analyst firms and IT experts expect the cloud adoption trend to be amplified by the current financial crisis.

In today's economic environment, enterprises need to carefully examine the ROI of any cloud-based investment.  Well-known monetary benefits include more attractive total cost of ownership, reduced implementation effort, easier IT infrastructure upgrades, no personnel investment and less up-front costs. However, IT executives know all too well that building and operating an integration infrastructure isn’t easy or cheap. Enterprises that adopt SaaS business applications have additional challenges in integrating data stored in the cloud with applications behind the four walls.  Addressing the integration challenge does not get any easier in an economic downturn, with less manpower and more sophisticated technology infrastructures. Issues can run rampant with each application and business process connection due to legacy files, operations data and financial formats that can conflict between business units. Even worse, disparate data formats could halt order configurations, invoicing and payment processing between trading partners. Each issue complicates integration, making it costly and time-consuming to connect at a business process level.    Legacy systems, such as electronic data interchange and flat file transfers are insufficient. Low-level connections that only transfer batch files between applications and trading partners are giving way to smart networks that incorporate diverse integration functionality, including real-time or near-time communication. Trading partners, customers, and internal/external applications demand closer and smoother connections to streamline business transactions and accommodate unique business process requirements. The ability to integrate beyond traditional data integration at a business process layer is a clear competitive advantage. Integration roadblocks leave sales revenue stuck in the pipeline. Companies need better control, clearer process visibility, data validation and tighter governance over all interactions. Globalization further complicates matters for integration. Multinational departments and outsourcing create friction from disparate IT systems and business practices. Today, enterprises must interact seamlessly with many stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, trading partners, other internal business units, SaaS application vendors and much more. Dynamic connections are required to collaborate with each stakeholder.

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