Cloud to On-Premise Connectivity Patterns
By Rajesh Raheja on Nov 13, 2013
Do you have a requirement to convert an Opportunity in Salesforce.com to an Order/Quote in Oracle E-Business Suite? Or maybe you want the creation of an Oracle RightNow Incident to trigger an on-premise Oracle E-Business Suite Service Request creation for RMA and Field Scheduling? If so, read on.
In a previous blog post, I discussed integrating TO cloud applications, however the use cases above are the reverse i.e. receiving data FROM cloud applications (SaaS) TO on-premise applications/databases that sit behind a firewall. Oracle SOA Suite is assumed to be on-premise with with Oracle Service Bus as the mediation and virtualization layer. The main considerations for the patterns are are security i.e. shielding enterprise resources; and scalability i.e. minimizing firewall latency. Let me use an analogy to help visualize the patterns: the on-premise system is your home - with your most valuable possessions - and the SaaS app is your favorite on-line store which regularly ships (inbound calls) various types of parcels/items (message types/service operations). You need the items at home (on-premise) but want to safe guard against misguided elements of society (internet threats) who may masquerade as postal workers and vandalize property (denial of service?). Let's look at the patterns.
Pattern: Pull from Cloud
The on-premise system polls from the SaaS apps and picks up the message instead of having it delivered. This may be done using Oracle RightNow Object Query Language or SOAP APIs. This is particularly suited for certain integration approaches wherein messages are trickling in, can be centralized and batched e.g. retrieving event notifications on an hourly schedule from the Oracle Messaging Service.
To compare this pattern with the home analogy, you are avoiding any deliveries to your home and instead go to the post office/UPS/Fedex store to pick up your parcel. Every time.
Pros: On-premise assets not exposed to the Internet, firewall issues avoided by only initiating outbound connections
Cons: Polling mechanisms may affect performance, may not satisfy near real-time requirements
Pattern: Open Firewall Ports
The on-premise system exposes the web services that needs to be invoked by the cloud application. This requires opening up firewall ports, routing calls to the appropriate internal services behind the firewall. Fusion Applications uses this pattern, and auto-provisions the services on the various virtual hosts to secure the topology. This works well for service integration, but may not suffice for large volume data integration.
Using the home analogy, you have now decided to receive parcels instead of going to the post office every time. A door mail slot cut out allows the postman can drop small parcels, but there is still concern about cutting new holes for larger packages.
Pros: optimal pattern for near real-time needs, simpler administration once the service is provisioned
Cons: Needs firewall ports to be opened up for new services, may not suffice for batch integration requiring direct database access
Pattern: Virtual Private Networking
The on-premise network is "extended" to the cloud (or an intermediary on-demand / managed service offering) using Virtual Private Networking (VPN) so that messages are delivered to the on-premise system in a trusted channel.
Using the home analogy, you entrust a set of keys with a neighbor or property manager who receives the packages, and then drops it inside your home.
Pros: Individual firewall ports don't need to be opened, more suited for high scalability needs, can support large volume data integration, easier management of one connection vs a multitude of open ports
Cons: VPN setup, specific hardware support, requires cloud provider to support virtual private computing
Pattern: Reverse Proxy / API Gateway
The on-premise system uses a reverse proxy "API gateway" software on the DMZ to receive messages. The reverse proxy can be implemented using various mechanisms e.g. Oracle API Gateway provides firewall and proxy services along with comprehensive security, auditing, throttling benefits. If a firewall already exists, then Oracle Service Bus or Oracle HTTP Server virtual hosts can provide reverse proxy implementations on the DMZ. Custom built implementations are also possible if specific functionality (such as message store-n-forward) is needed.
In the home analogy, this pattern sits in between cutting mail slots and handing over keys. Instead, you install (and maintain) a mailbox in your home premises outside your door. The post office delivers the parcels in your mailbox, from where you can securely retrieve it.
Pros: Very secure, very flexible
Cons: Introduces a new software component, needs DMZ deployment and management
Pattern: On-Premise Agent (Tunneling)
A light weight "agent" software sits behind the firewall and initiates the communication with the cloud, thereby avoiding firewall issues. It then maintains a bi-directional connection either with pull or push based approaches using (or abusing, depending on your viewpoint) the HTTP protocol. Programming protocols such as Comet, WebSockets, HTTP CONNECT, HTTP SSH Tunneling etc. are possible implementation options.
In the home analogy, a resident receives the parcel from the postal worker by opening the door, however you still take precautions with chain locks and package inspections.
Pros: Light weight software, IT doesn't need to setup anything
Cons: May bypass critical firewall checks e.g. virus scans, separate software download, proliferation of non-IT managed software
The patterns above are some of the most commonly encountered ones for cloud to on-premise integration. Selecting the right pattern for your project involves looking at your scalability needs, security restrictions, sync vs asynchronous implementation, near real-time vs batch expectations, cloud provider capabilities, budget, and more. In some cases, the basic "Pull from Cloud" may be acceptable, whereas in others, an extensive VPN topology may be well justified.
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