A new order in systems integration is emerging

Cloud and integration technologies are changing the systems integrator landscape. A recent event by Appirio shows just how far and radical the changes are becoming.
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor

Last week, Appirio hosted a great event at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. While the core purpose of the event was to announce the release of their new software product, you might do well to understand who Appirio is and why they are relevant to cloud users and the integration services space.

Appirio is sooooo different from the usual systems integrator. Most of their work is focused around integrating three cloud solutions: Salesforce.com, Workday and Google. And, when they integrate apps like Google’s Gmail, Workday’s Financial and HR software and Salesforce’s CRM, they often do this via small form factor devices like the iPhone, iPad and other technologies designed for a more mobile and interconnected world.

Appirio, from what I heard and saw, isn’t really interested in integrating decades old on-premise ERP and desktop applications to a cloud application. Instead, they want to do cloud-to-cloud integration that can push application functionality and data to/from handheld devices. If your firm has a material field service organization, you’ll likely need someone like Appirio soon.

The new Appirio integration software is called CloudWorks. It facilitates and speeds up the integration of popular cloud-to-cloud integrations. The company also created CustomWorks to help create more one-off integrations. Appirio may even have a partner version available on this although I don’t have a lot on that capability right now.

One Appirio client that was highlighted at the event is in the remote healthcare delivery business. This firm has something like 6,000 employees in the field and approximately 300 in their headquarters. All of their field personnel use some sort of Apple portable device (e.g., iPhone, iPad or iMac). These devices provide information about their work schedule, the type of care each employee must provide and to whom, information about the patient, etc. These devices are not only pulling in information from multiple cloud sources but they’re also pushing information out and sharing information to other care providers.

Aneel Bhusri, Co-CEO of Workday, was also on stage for a bit. He discussed how social media and mobile technologies are driving everything now. He added that future versions of the Workday software will have the user interface (UI) designed first for the handheld device world and then for the desktop. Aneel and other executives from Google and Salesforce were asked to opine on the future of systems integration and other topical matters. Attendees heard that systems integration, as a business, must move to the cloud. Modern firms will go from integrating 1-2 cloud apps (e.g., Salesforce CRM to Google Apps) to possibly 100 cloud apps in as little as 2 years out. Systems integrators can’t expect to spend 4-5 years rolling out a large systems implementation anymore. The window is now 4-5 months. Yes, some big systems integrators will be needed to do some of the largest cloud implementations but the number of deals and companies that will need that capability may be shrinking.

My assessment of this event and with a number of vendor visits I made last week and this week is that:

- Cloud integration services are a core capability that will be in great demand; HOWEVER, almost no cloud solutions vendor I spoke with had a lot of positive feedback re: the capabilities of old school systems integrators. When I did get some positive news on these firms, Deloitte and Accenture were the two most mentioned.

- Mobile is a key strategy area that must be addressed by systems integrators, auditors and others.

- There are number of new entrants in the integration services space. Appirio was only formed in 2006 and now has over 200 clients and over 700 projects under its belt. There’s momentum and energy in this space and fast movers are killing it.

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