Can These Fancy New Cloud Applications Work With My Traditional Systems?

By Phil Rainsberger

These days, with everything around us changing so quickly, it can be easy to forget that not very long ago, these actions were the norm:

•You'd get paid with a paper check, go to a big marble-filled bank, wait in line, deposit the piece of paper, and be told the funds—your money!!—would be "available" in 7 days.

•You'd plan a vacation by going to a shopping center and walking into a storefront where a "travel agent" would walk you through your options and serve as the voice of expertise on everything—including the price you'd be paying.

•You'd need to renew your driver's license and, with a heavy sense of dread, head over the Department of Motor Vehicles office fully prepared to be ignored, insulted, talked about, laughed at, and—worst of all—be told that everyone was tired and you'd need to come back next week.

While those experiences seem like fables from a prehistoric era, they represent processes and interactions that were very much typical of how things were done: inflexible and impersonal and with all the power and information and influence in the hands of the seller or provider, and all the inconvenience with the individual.

Today, of course, modern and mobile apps have turned those unpleasant experiences upside-down and have strongly tilted the balance of power to the consumer. We have more information, more choices, more options, more leverage, and less brand-loyalty than ever before—and these modern apps have been the prime mover behind that customer-centric revolution.

But as with all revolutions, this one didn't occur overnight—and early attempts at getting slick new apps to work with legacy systems and traditional on-premises applications were often disastrous. Indeed, many of the early SaaS vendors such as and Workday and Microsoft openly acknowledged that the biggest hurdles faced by customers was integrating the new with the old.

So what's the current state of applications affairs: how well do the old and the new get along?

While still not perfect, the interplay of legacy IT and modern SaaS applications has improved dramatically, in part because of relentless work on the part of software vendors but mostly because business customers have simply voted with their wallets and forced IT vendors to make this legacy-with-SaaS integration a top priority.

Software vendors that started in the on-premises world and have moved to the cloud have had to ensure that customers don't get trapped by incompatible versions that can't work together, can't share data, and/or force the customer to spend vast amounts of time and money making the two separate worlds work together. When that's happened, word's gotten around fast—and those vendors have rushed to fix the problems.

Meanwhile, SaaS vendors have fully realized that if they want to be accepted into IT environments filled with on-premises technology, they have to create connectors and integration services that make compatibility not just possible but relatively simple.

In addition, big improvements in Platform-as-a-Service technologies make it much easier for business customers to make the necessary legacy-to-SaaS connections, while also allowing businesses to create cloud-based "extensions" to existing applications.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of this effort to make it as simple as possible for businesses to weave on-premises and cloud technology together so that instead of having to worry so much about complex integrations, those companies can focus more time and energy on dazzling their customers and growing their revenue.

For us at Tier1, that's one of the main reasons we decided to go with Microsoft and its industry-leading Azure platform as our core cloud partner. Like Microsoft, Tier1 has roots in the on-premise world but has also gained great experience and expertise in helping clients move smoothly, securely and profitably into the cloud with whatever blend of legacy and cloud technologies that's best for any particular client.

Give us a call and we'll share some ideas on how to make the cool new apps of today work with the IT systems you've already got.