IBM makes a serious move into cloud integration with acquisition of Cast Iron Systems

This morning IBM announced that it has acquired Cast Iron Systems, for an undisclosed sum. Cast Iron Systems a 75 person strong “cloud integration vendor”. I’m at IBM’s Impact 2010 conference, and have mulled this one over with James Governor and Neil Ward-Dutton already (James has already blogged on this here and Neil here. I don’t have much to add to either Neil or James, but – never the less…

  • This is a really good move for IBM as it establishes IBM as the de facto leader in Cloud integration
  • This gets IBM some really good mid-sized clients and a mid-sized client-friendly business model
  • Cast Iron offers significant value to IBM’s customers by radically simplifying the process of integrating cloud-based apps like SalesForce.com, google docs and a host of others either with eachother or with “non-cloud” apps like SAP.
  • The number of different API’s and, indeed, API approaches adopted by different SaaS and Cloud players makes it a real pain to integrate them – Cast Iron makes it possible to link SAP with SalesForce.com in seconds rather than days or weeks
  • While this is an excellent addition to IBM’s integration portfolio, it has also added (yet) another way to specify how two applications interact which places the onus on IBM to help customers decide which approach/technology to use

This is a really good move for IBM as it establishes IBM as the de facto leader in Cloud integration

Cast Iron Systems was originally founded as a web-EAI company and has recently repositioned as a cloud integration company. The company offers a combination of middleware, tooling and adapters that allow a range of cloud and non-cloud applications to interconnect.

IBM has been working on addressing the integration challenge presented by the explosive growth in the number (and adoption) of SaaS applications so will have been well aware of the the value that buying all of this technology already built – and pretty widely deployed.

This gets IBM some really good mid-sized clients and a mid-sized client-friendly business model

Looking at Cast Iron’s client list, it’s clear that the company has enjoyed a deal of success in the mid-market – which is the segment that is most actively adopting SaaS in anger, so in acquiring the company IBM is gaining an important foothold in a very important part of the market for SaaS and cloud.

Cast Iron also supports a more mid-sized business-friendly way of doing business (low entry cost, and a range of pricing/charging options that IBM is very likely to replicate elsewhere.

Cast Iron offers significant value to IBM’s customers by radically simplifying the process of integrating cloud-based apps like SalesForce.com, google docs and a host of others either with eachother or with “non-cloud” apps like SAP.

It would be disingenuous to write this announcement of as “IBM Buys some adapters” – but even if it were just that,  the coverage is pretty impressive – with adaptors in place for Salesforce.com,  Oracle CRM On Demand, Google Apps, NetSuite, and others as well as adaptors for  SAP,Oracle EBS,PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel as well as several others on the non-cloud side of the fence.

The number of different API’s and, indeed, API approaches adopted by different SaaS and Cloud players makes it a real pain to integrate them – Cast Iron makes it possible to link SAP with SalesForce.com in seconds rather than days or weeks

Having waded through the docs for the google API set, Twitter’s, PayPal’s and SugarCRM’s (to name a few), I can tell you with personal experience that it’s a real pain. While all of the API’s are essentially service oriented, they’re all documented differently and all implemented differently. They’re also subject to change. Managing the integration of one of these apps with one that you’ve either developed yourself or that you run on your own systems is “a bit of a pain”, doing it with two is “gnarly” and doing it with more than two starts to become really annoying.

You don’t quite appreciate how much of a pain it is till you see someone demo Cast Iron’s solution to the problem – SAP to SalesForce.com integration was demoed, live, in under five minutes.

Really… it took less than five minutes to have SAP injecting new clients into SalesForce.com. That’s less than 300 seconds!

While this is an excellent addition to IBM’s integration portfolio, it has also added (yet) another way to specify how two applications interact which places the onus on IBM to help customers decide which approach/technology to use

There is a minor caveat – IBM has now got “another” integration technology to offer customers, who are already perhaps a little spoilt for choice when it comes to picking places to drop that integration logic. Unwary clients could find themselves doing really unpleasant and gnarly things by writing custom transformations or business rules within the Cast Iron tooling (which even allows clients to write custom logic in Javascript) . IBM needs to make it clear that the Cast Iron technology is really, really, useful in the context of COTS to Cloud integration but that there may be better places for describing complex business rules and transformations.

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