Integration migrates to the cloud

Integration vendor Cast Iron, which for years has offered its product packaged as a hardware appliance, this week unveiled a cloud-native integration service, along with a partner program designed to build a thriving ecosystem around the platfrom.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Integration vendor Cast Iron, which for years has offered its product packaged as a hardware appliance, this week unveiled a cloud-native integration service. The introduction of Cast Iron Cloud is the culmination of a transition begun earlier this year when Cast Iron began offering cloud hosting of its upgraded appliance product. Customers can now choose between an on-premise appliance, a dedicated cloud-hosted appliance or the multi-tenant cloud service.

Organizations that still have a lot of their own server infrastructure will continue to opt for the on-premise appliance, VP of product marketing Chandar Pattabhiram told me in a briefing last week. The cloud service has been created to serve what Cast Iron sees as a growing market of 'SaaS-centric' organizations — mostly smaller businesses — that use several different cloud services and have little or no servers in-house. "If you're a SaaS-centric enterprise, you'll probably want to choose integration-as-a-service in the cloud," he said.

Cast Iron is also betting that SaaS vendors will increasingly be under pressure to show they can offer integration from the get-go. It has simultaneously unveiled a partner program that encourages SaaS vendors to pre-integrate their products and earn a Powered By Cast Iron accreditation. The program is open to ISVs, system integrators and VARs.

"The aim is to take integration off the table for them," said Pattabhiram. SaaS customers are wising up to the likelihood that they'll want to integrate cloud-based applications to each other and to on-premise systems, and they want to know the vendors are ready to support that, he explained. "They're saying, show us how you can integrate into my environment." If vendors can't readily answer that question, then it makes it a whole lot harder to close the sale, he added.

Cast Iron is offering a sophisticated range of partner support services under its program. As well as helping vendors create the 'template integration process' that reduces the integration task to a series of point-and-click configuration choices, Cast Iron will train and certify professional services teams in its own seven-day methodology for completing an implementation. The integration vendor also helps partners write audience-specific sales pitches and provides marketing support such as an own-branded demo portal and joint marketing initiatives. All this of course comes at a price, with only the topmost of three partner levels benefitting from the full range of support services.

The investment in building up its partner base is clearly designed to bolster Cast Iron's credentials as an integration platform. I've often wondered whether SaaS integration would be something that ended up being part of a broader SaaS platform — this is the bet that Workday has taken, with its Cape Clear acquisition, or OpSource, with its Connect service bus [disclosure: both have been clients] — or whether it can be viable as a standalone service in its own right. With this week's announcements, Cast Iron is making a strong play to become the standalone leader, and a thriving partner ecosystem can only help further that ambition.

The other name most frequently mentioned to me by SaaS vendors these days as an integration player is Boomi, which without mentioning any competitors' names re-emphasized its own credentials as a multi-tenant platform on its blog this week. Cast Iron isn't fully multi-tenant: each customer's instance runs as a "dedicated, secure integration environment" within the Cast Iron Cloud. Boomi now has a powerful rival: the Cast Iron Cloud is a complete re-engineering of the vendor's software as a multi-tenant service, running off a single shared database and application instance. The only element of segmentation comes at runtime, when a self-contained integration bus is instantiated in memory to run the pre-defined integration process. [Updated 10:29am to correct earlier version].

Boomi retains its purity as a solely in-the-cloud player. But with many larger enterprises (and indeed some SaaS vendors) still preferring to run integration within an appliance on their own premises, Cast Iron feels that allowing customers to choose from a range of 'deployment options' is more appropriate to where the market stands at present.

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