Panasas chooses Dell Boomi data integration tools over Cast Iron

The right cloud data integration tools helped high performance storage vendor Panasas complete a very successful IT overhaul.

Migrating from a Siebel CRM system to Salesforce.com required moving existing on-premises data integration to the cloud for Panasas Inc., a job it handed over to Boomi after Boomi proved easier to use than tools from Cast Iron Systems, according to company officials.

The company first went live with Boomi Atomsphere, a cloud-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, about three years ago -- before Dell Computer Corp. acquired Boomi and IBM acquired Cast Iron in 2010.

"We found it easier to experiment and build [proof-of-concept integrations] in the Boomi environment," said John Lake, director of information systems with Sunnyvale Calif.-based Panasas. "We had some initial conversations with Cast Iron around cost, pricing, and lead times to get something up and running. But while we were talking with Cast Iron, we were starting to build things in Boomi. I think the ability to do that [quickly] was a competitive differentiator for us."

Last April, SearchDataManagment.com interviewed two former Boomi users who ultimately found the offering too complex and time consuming for their SaaS integration needs. But Lake said his experience with Boomi -- and now Dell Boomi -- has been a positive one.

"We built our first integration in about three days," Lake said. "What we liked about it in particular was that the connectors were pre-built. We just grabbed them and dragged them into our workflow."

Data integration tools aid major CRM upgrade

Founded in 2004, Panasas is a storage hardware vendor that specializes in high performance computing. Its customers include oil and gas companies, manufacturers, research laboratories and others with a need for very rapid storage performance. The company regularly works with third-party contract manufacturers who build Panasas storage appliances based on exacting customer specifications.

Lake first joined Panasas in 2008 and was quickly assigned the task of overhauling the organization's application infrastructure. For starters, the company wanted to move its entire customer relationship management (CRM) operation from an outdated implementation of Oracle-Siebel 7 to Salesforce.com.

"Our inside sales team was using and leveraging Salesforce.com for lead management, lead qualification and that sort of thing and the decision was made [to] consolidate onto a single CRM platform," Lake said. "So, we looked at a number of different vendors and landed with Salesforce."

Lake said the most challenging aspect of the CRM upgrade project centered on the need to maintain several point integrations with external contract manufacturers. Those integrations allow for the free exchange of customer orders, invoices and status reports -- and they needed to be preserved. 

"We knew that we were going to be extending integration beyond CRM to include [enterprise resource planning] and other applications that we were using in-house. We [needed] to get some sort of tool that would enable us to build and run these integrations," Lake said. "We also knew we didn't want to redo the custom approach -- writing scripts, running cron jobs, things like that."

It was a Saleforce.com sales representative that first suggested Boomi. Lake said the system was relatively easy to implement and has allowed Panasas to connect bi-directionally with Salesforce.com and external contract manufacturers. According to Dell, Boomi has given Panasas the ability to query Salesforce.com for orders that are ready to be released to the manufacturers. Boomi also enables Panasas to update Saleforce.com when the manufacturer completes a product and ships it out or a new order is received.

When Lake found out that Dell planned to acquire Boomi, he was initially concerned that the high level of customer support and individual attention he was getting from the data integration tools vendor would fall off.

"But we haven't found that to be the case," Lake said. "The communications with their support team have remained pretty solid. And for the most part I think [that Boomi's] leadership team has remained in-tact."

Dell decided to acquire Boomi as part of an ongoing effort to ramp up its cloud portfolio, according to Rick Nucci, chief technology officer of Boomi. Since joining forces, Nucci said the two companies have been working to integrate support, sales and financial operations, while allowing Boomi to maintain a level of independence when it comes to design and development.

"Effectively, we're operating as a standalone business unit," Nucci said. "[But] we'll more than double the stack by the end of the year. [Dell is enabling us] to execute on things that we had wanted to do when we were independent Boomi."

Nucci said some of the most recent additions to the Boomi portfolio include new capabilities for dealing with extremely large data sets and new connectors that allow users to link internal or external systems with with on-premise cloud or middleware environments.

Data integration projects require big picture thinking

Organizations considering a data integration project need to remember to always keep the big picture in mind -- especially when integrating with external suppliers, according to Lake.

"You have to have a broad perspective in terms of what you're trying to accomplish," he said. "You have to think about it end-to-end, not just point-to-point."

Failing to keep the big picture in mind will undoubtedly lead to compatability problems when the scope of the project expands, Lake warned. It's also important to keep third party business partners apprised of requirements each step of the way -- because requirements rarely remain static for long.

"Change is inevitable. You may have to add a field, you may have to change the format of the field as it's moved from one point to another, or you may introduce new points of integration along the way," Lake said. "When dealing with third parties, you've got to have a good, open and clear dialog about not only what requirements are today, but give them as much advanced notice as possible on what our future requirements may be."

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