IBM's acquisition of Cast Iron Systems puts together a dominant on-premise applications provider (Big Blue) with a top software as a service (SaaS) integration leader. This pair could be a match made in enterprise heaven.
Why? SaaS won't be a zero sum affair with on-premise software. In fact, on-premise software and SaaS will be mixed and matched and integrated. In other words, corporations will pick their SaaS shots. Cast Iron provides pre-configured integration templates to produce user interface mashups, process integration and data migration.
Phil Wainewright sums up the deal nicely:
IBM bought Cast Iron Systems because it simply had nothing in its huge Websphere toolbox that could do cloud integration. I just heard the company’s SVP of its software group Steve Mills admit this in today’s IBM press briefing, talking about the acquisition. While IBM has a massive catalog of technologies for integrating applications within a company, he confessed that tiny Cast Iron were the masters when it came to any form of integration that extends beyond the enterprise firewall: “Cast Iron connects customers to external suppliers. They do the inter-enterprise integration better than anyone else does,” he admitted.
Seeing those integration trends develop, IBM made a move to buy Cast Iron, which has an impressive customer list, multiple cloud integration projects completed and a good track record. Simply put, Cast Iron allows IBM to link SaaS with its business process and software overhauls. Cast Iron will come in handy to IBM as on-premise software---business intelligence, ERP and the like---is delivered as a cloud application. Everything will be blended. Wainewright kicks around the idea that IBM's acquisition is a sign of weakness. I'd give IBM props for filling a key void.
Meanwhile, IBM will be able to take advantage of Cast Iron partnerships with Salesforce.com, Amazon, NetSuite, Google and others. These cloud platforms can then be connected to SAP, IBM and Oracle applications.
IBM needs to make sure the core value of integration, a mainstay of its WebSphere brands, does not slide up and out of the enterprises data center and then become controlled then by the likes of cloud leaders Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Salesforce.com. I guess we can think of Cast Iron as a way to bring WebSphere to cloud integrations.
Naturally, Cast Iron will ride with IBM's middleware portfolio---WebSphere. The aim, according to IBM WebSphere general manager Craig Hayman:
The combination of IBM and Cast Iron Systems will make it easy for clients to integrate business applications, no matter where those applications reside.