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Integrating applications in the cloud is a lot like being a plumber. A plumber's work is difficult and messy, and there's not much to brag about when it's done. After all, it's just plumbing, and everyone expects it to work when they need it to.
Although integrating applications in the cloud isn't glamorous, it may be getting easier. Thanks to a slew of application integration vendors targeting the cloud, more options are available than ever before. Three vendors -- SnapLogic, Dell Boomi and Informatica Cloud -- offer similar products, but with some very different twists. All three vendors share the same goal of making integration easier, less expensive and far less time-consuming. However, each product has a unique technical solution to achieve that goal.
SnapLogic: Go big (data) or go home
Positioned as a "visionary" in Gartner Group's Magic Quadrant, SnapLogic Integration Cloud offers prepackaged integration agents called Snaps that promise to make integration "a snap." "We can easily integrate and collect cross-platform data at the same location it's processed," said SnapLogic's VP of Marketing Darren Cunningham. The company's secret weapon is that the Snaps run natively on open source Hadoop, enabling data flows and automatically generating a map. "This really reduces the workload behind the scenes," Cunningham said.
More than that, Hadoop capability gives SnapLogic a major advantage when processing big data, said Forrester VP and Principal Analyst of Platform Software Stefan Ried. "SnapLogic is in a premium position to integrate and compute big data." This feature also means the product is appealing to a variety of customers in different industries.
For example, consider Southern California-based Northgate Markets. This 51-store grocery chain is a best-of-breed shop that decided to move to the cloud. The question Northgate Markets had to answer was how it would integrate all of the company's applications and keep its 24/7 operations running smoothly. The answer was SnapLogic, said Northgate CIO Harrison Lewis. "We were trying to blend a best-of-breed ERP with a warehouse management system and other applications," he said. "SnapLogic really worked out for us. It's a very powerful tool." The Snaps, in particular, helped make the integration much easier. In a matter of months, the company went from 30 pipelines to 64, all while adding 14 additional stores. "Future development is going to be faster and cheaper because we can reuse the Snaps," Lewis said. The IT staff is small -- only one person is fully focused on integration -- and that works because the SnapLogic support staff fills in the gaps, he said. "No one even comes close to SnapLogic in customer service. They do the maintenance and monitoring, and then they do the triage."
Dell Boomi: Making the cloud do the work
Chris McNabb, general manager of Dell Boomi, knows his customers are smart. They're so smart the company decided to be equally clever and showcase all that brilliance right in the product. The result is that Dell Boomi currently is the only application integration product with crowd sourced data mapping. The idea is simple, Forrester's Ried said. Most customers publish metadata, a description of the data and the interface. So anyone can search for the endpoints they're trying to connect -- SAP to Salesforce.com, for example -- and see what has already been done. They can then use those mappings as their own. And when it comes to something new, it works even better, Ried said. "Lay back and wait two hours and see what everyone else has done for you."
According to McNabb, everyone else has done a lot. He said Dell Boomi's AtomSphere currently offers more than 11 million mappings, with more being created every day. "This is a solution that works for the largest enterprise down to the smallest of folks, and it's multi-platform from B2B to mobile, big data and even the Internet of Things," McNabb said. "There is something for everyone here."
That's not the only appeal. "Integration in the cloud is a must-have, but no one is making revenue based on great integration," McNabb insisted. But companies can save money using Dell Boomi's offering because the cost of ownership is less. "There is less cost to data mapping if you work in a community," Ried agreed.
Access to that very active and creative community is a major reason medical device maker Varian Medical Systems’ enterprise application solutions manager John Ma chose AtomSphere. Although the company test drove other offerings, including Informatica Cloud and IBM's CastIron, Ma said Dell Boomi was the only platform to be up and running after only a couple of hours on the phone with the company's support team. He liked that it was a "pure cloud" multi-tenant platform. "This is a very great, stable platform with no downtime," Ma said. "But the main attraction was the cloud sourcing-based application."
Informatica Cloud: DIYers, this one's for you
Informatica, a company with a long history of trusted on-premises integration tools, took Informatica Cloud in a very different direction, said Ajay Gandhi, Informatica Cloud's VP for product marketing. Informatica Cloud offers seamless integration with its on-premises parent (making it very attractive for customers already using Informatica), but it is a completely different product designed for non-programmers. "This product was built for DIYers," Gandhi said. Wizards guide users to point and click so they can easily change line-of-business applications with pre-existing templates. "This way it's a lot easier for us mere mortals to add a custom tier without bringing in IT," he said.
The company acknowledges that Informatica Cloud has major market share in some of the big traditional applications, such as Salesforce.com, but Gandhi resists being pigeon-holed as just a Salesforce tool, and he points to the company's enormous marketplace of published data on adapters and metadata as proof of that. This has resulted in "the largest integration marketplace in the world," Gandhi said. And while Forrester's Ried said this isn't cloud-sourced, exactly, it's still a clever opportunity for integrators to "do for one and sell to other customers, as well."
And the close connection to Salesforce.com is certainly a selling point. That was one of the reasons Jon Pickles, global director of 360 Engagement for The Travel Corporation, went with Informatica Cloud. The company had an on-premises product that was kludgy, slow, inclined to break down, filled with duplicate data, and so complex that making changes took months. Pickles was looking for something agile that "could be run by data or business people versus programmers." He considered other on-premises products, but was frustrated by long evaluation times. Informatica Cloud MDM came to his attention and a proof of concept -- uploading data to the cloud, cleansing and deduping, and depositing in Salesforce.com -- took only 30 minutes to accomplish, a far cry from the 48 hours his old solution delivered. To date, Informatica Cloud MDM has been rolled out to three of the company's 30 brands (and in only two months), and Pickles said everyone is very happy. "It was just a nightmare keeping everything in sync before," he said.
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