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Connecting the Dots: The Social Web, Cloud Computing and Integration

With so much buzz around the social web and the cloud, it's hard not to get caught up in these latest tech trends

These days it seems nearly impossible to talk about the enterprise without mentioning the words "social" or "cloud." At first glance, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and cloud computing services like Salesforce.com appear to be separate and distinct technologies from a business as well as technical standpoint. One thing that both technologies have in common is that their growing popularity is putting pressure on enterprises to join the bandwagon and adopt them.

On the social side of things, sites like Facebook and Twitter allow companies to communicate marketing messages to customers through direct channels while professional networking sites like LinkedIn streamline the process for recruiting talent. Yammer, an enterprise social network, works much like Facebook but is limited to users within a business organization and thus not available to the public. With Yammer, employees can post updates about projects they are working on, ask questions, and share links, making it easy to connect and collaborate with co-workers in real time.

Cloud computing vendors like Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services, meanwhile, provide everything from CRM and ERP applications to platforms for deploying applications and infrastructure and storage. Because these services are delivered over the web, enterprises don't need to buy, install, or manage any software or hardware, but can take advantage of the elasticity and scalability of the cloud.

With so much buzz around the social web and the cloud, it's hard not to get caught up in these latest tech trends and be swayed by promises of increased productivity and reduced costs. Before "going social" or signing up for a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS, however, enterprises need to consider exactly how such technologies will add value to their businesses.

As standalone technologies, social networking sites and cloud computing services do have potential benefits for the enterprise. But adopting and implementing them without careful planning or a well-defined strategy only adds architectural complexity to the enterprise and creates silos of data and processes. A crucial factor that is often overlooked when deploying a social or cloud strategy is integration.

In order to take full advantage of the social web and cloud resources, enterprises need to integrate across the social web, cloud and enterprise. A sales team might be able to collaborate using social networking technologies, but they also need access to enterprise data residing in on-premise legacy systems and increasingly, the cloud. The key is to connect data and logic from different sources with social tools to facilitate, rather than impede, the collaborative productivity of users and the flow of business processes.

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Ross Masson is the CTO and Founder of MuleSoft. He founded the open source Mule® project in 2003. Frustrated by integration "donkey work," he set out to create a new platform that emphasized ease of development and re-use of components. He started the Mule project to bring a modern approach, one of assembly, rather than repetitive coding, to developers worldwide. Now, with the MuleSoft team, Ross is taking these founding principles of dead-simple integration to the cloud with Mule iON, the world's first integration platform as a service (iPaaS). Ross holds a BS (Hons) in Computer Science from Bristol, UK and has been named in InformationWeek's Top 10 Innovators & Influencers and InfoWorld's Top 25 CTOs.