Using Amazon Public Cloud profitably in an integration architecture

Authors: Thomas Stuber and Oliver Faust

An efficient integration solution is an essential success factor in a modern enterprise world. Through the use of SaaS services or the outsourcing of entire IT systems, the IT architecture is increasingly evolving into a hyper-distributed system. Public cloud-based and decentralized integration capabilities (Distributed Integration Platform according to Gartner, see also Impulse Forms of agile integration - an overview) are becoming increasingly popular. To a large extent, this is also enabled by the services and solutions of hyperscalers.

In this article, we describe how the AWS Cloud became an important foundation for a scalable and efficient integration platform in a Swiss insurance company.

Challenge: Optimal customer experience

Technological advancements continue unabated. Insurance customers are also adjusting their expectations accordingly. It is therefore essential that insurance companies keep pace with these trends and ensure that they can continue to offer an excellent customer experience in the future. To do this, technologies and processes that no longer meet today's needs must be modernized.

Im Bereich von Integrationen sehen wir zwei top Herausforderungen, mit welchen Versicherungen konfrontiert werden:

  1. Time to Market

    Long development cycles in the area of integration slow down innovation. In order to place products and applications in line with the market, shorter time to market, greater agility and faster implementation processes are sought.

  2. User Experience

    Since the customer wants to interact with the insurance company via various channels, data must be available in all applications 24x7x365 and always reflect the most current status.

How did the insurance company mentioned at the beginning deal with these challenges?

Solution: Decentralized integration platform

The challenges are addressed by using a decentralized integration platform. This enables development teams to implement integrations independently within their work context.

On the one hand, the platform provides enablers for decentralized use. This includes an extensive self-service with API discovery capabilities. Development teams can thus implement interfaces independently (e.g. expose new API or search & consume existing interfaces) and governance aspects are ensured through automation. This enables fast releases and reduces time to market. 

On the other hand, this platform provides an abstraction to API-based integration. This offers three categories of interfaces for use:

  • Messaging interfaces for asynchronous communication
  • HTTP interfaces (API gateway) for synchronous communication
  • File-based interfaces

In this way, suitable technologies are available for various integration needs in order to use interfaces with a high degree of reusability. For example, a messaging-based interface can be used to create a consistent customer experience on different channels.

202203_Public Cloud Services gewinnbringend in einer Integrationsarchitektur einsetzen_Illustration_01_EN.png
Figure 1: AWS as the foundation of the integration platform

In this example, the integration platform runs entirely on the AWS Cloud - with different services or production depths: 

  • The messaging solution runs on a container orchestration system, which in turn runs on Amazon EC2 instances (virtual machines). This container orchestration also provides the basis for developing and deploying cloud-native applications and integrations, which are preferably built as microservices. 
    The operation of the messaging as well as the container orchestration requires higher operational effort, but a tailored use of the technologies as well as great flexibility is achieved.
  • For the use of the API Gateway, the Amazon API Gateway (incl. Amazon WAF for security) is used. Amazon S3 is used for the data exchange of large or binary file formats. Amazon takes over the operation of both services. Provisioning is done by the company's own self-service via Amazon APIs.

What added value does the cloud bring in the area of integrations?

For the insurance company mentioned at the beginning, the use of a cloud-operated integration platform brings the following advantages:

  • Using Amazon APIs, it was possible to build a self-service that ensures governance and enables teams to implement their own projects very quickly.
  • By reducing the vertical integration, the operational overhead of the solution was significantly reduced. The reduction in vertical integration results from the use of managed Amazon Services (see Figure 1 - yellow boxes).
  • Hyperscalers like AWS offer a variety of other services, which can easily be used depending on the integration scenario. These synergy effects provide good options for further development of the platform.
  • The decentralized approach to development can also lead to integration being considered earlier in the application development lifecycle and encourage API-first/ecosystem thinking.

Conclusion and Outlook

In this blog, we have used an example from the insurance industry to see what a modern integration platform in the AWS Cloud can look like and what challenges it can address.

There are many interesting developments for the future. One observation is the increased emergence of managed services (e.g., for the messaging platform or container platforms), where hyperscalers in particular offer a wide range. As a company, you have to ask yourself whether it really makes sense to operate certain services yourself or whether it is better to obtain them as a service in order to reduce expenses. Of course, there is no universal answer to this question. It must be weighed up individually between possible flexibility and the company's own expenses.

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