"It's a hybrid world and it's going to continue to be a hybrid world," said Chandar Pattabhiram of Cast Iron Systems in an interview. In other words, companies will need to blend data from on-premise applications with cloud offerings such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) for some time to come.
Cast Iron OmniConnect, a cloud integration platform announced Tuesday, is expressly designed to integrate public and private cloud services with on-premise applications. Targeting both end users and SaaS service providers, the offering combines classic data integration capabilities, like migration, cleansing, and synchronization, with process integration.
"If you're trying to integrate Salesforce.com to SAP to support an order-to-cash process, for example, OmniConnect offers two-way, system-to-system, event-driven integration that is real-time rather than batch oriented," said Pattabhiram, Cast Iron's vice president of channel and product marketing.
OmniConnect also supports user-interface mashups that can combine cloud-delivered data and services. An example of such a mashup is Amazon.com's embedding of FedEx shipment tracking information within its own user interface.
"We have capabilities within our studio in which you can define functions and rules by which you can extract data from one application and define where you want to put it within another application," Pattabhiram said.
Whether an integration scenario is cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-enterprise, administrators can design, implement, and manage multiple projects entirely in the cloud. This gives large companies and ISVs one place in which to manage integration services. "If you're integrating SAP with Salesforce on one continent and Siebel and another SaaS service on another, you can still do it all from one data center rather than having separate management consoles for each project," he said.
OmniConnect includes more than 200 reusable Template Integration Processes that support common cloud and on-premise applications. In addition, a Connector Development Kit is said to simplify development of connections to new applications and data sources, with reuse and "snap-in" connectivity saving IT and service providers time when building integrations.
The integration challenges Cast Iron is tackling are crucial to the success of SaaS deployments and the growth of cloud computing, according to Robert Mahowald, IDC's research vice president covering SaaS and Cloud Services.
"Offering simple, cloud-based integrations and tailoring them toward specific customer scenarios is a winning approach," Mahowald said, alluding to OmniConnect's templated integrations. "Cast Iron covers all the point-in-time and ongoing cloud-based integrations that most customers have."
Cast Iron is not alone in addressing the cloud integration challenge. Competitors Informatica and NetIQ take more of a comprehensive, data-governance approach, Mahowald said.
"Cast Iron tends to do projects where they are there for a short period of time building integrations, whereas the other guys want to be a data migration, data integration, data quality, and data loading partner for the long term," he explained.
The OmniConnect platform itself is offered in the cloud, as a multi-tenant SaaS service, on premise, through a Web-administered physical appliance, or as a virtual appliance hosted by Cast Iron.
Simple integration services for flat-files and databases start at $500 per month. More complex integrations between SaaS services and on-premise applications cost approximately $1,500 per month. Integration involving six or more enterprise end-points, including SaaS and multiple on-premise applications, starts at around $4,500 per month.