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Jack Vaughan

IBM buys Cast Iron Systems, focuses on hybrid cloud computing integrations

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IBM moved Monday to improve its position in the emerging area of cloud computing architecture, purchasing Cast Iron Systems for an undisclosed sum. The privately held Mountain View, Calif.-based Cast Iron specializes in cloud computing systems integration; it matches, for example, cloud applications from players such as Salesforce.com and Amazon with traditional back-end ERP systems from the likes of JD Edwards and SAP.

The deal, announced at IBM's Impact 2010 conference in Las Vegas, highlights the importance IBM places on hybrid cloud computing, a mix of private clouds run on a corporation's premises and public clouds of the type that Amazon.com and SalesForce.com provide for hosting applications and application platforms.

"Cast Iron is an enabler of the hybrid integration model," said Steve Mills, head of IBM's software businesses. "Out cloud model has always been a hybrid model. Cast Iron is really a nice fit," he continued.

Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM WebSphere emphasized IBM's focus on mixing cloud setups with traditional applications. "Clouds need to talk to other clouds, and connect to your enterprise," he said.

This connectivity can be challenging in the face of the data and API development needed to map between stalwart enterprise applications such as on-premise general ledgers and new cloud REST-based configurations built expressly to run on ultra large grids of virtualized machines. This is the vineyard in which startup Cast Iron has been working.

"We know the data patterns from experience working with companies," said Ken Comee, president and CEO, Cast Iron. "We know the connection points and the APIs."

"We are familiar with [the likely] data transformations for say an SAP-to-SalesForce.com integration," he said, adding that Cast Iron also supports intelligent routing for work flow. "In effect, we automate the process," said Comee.

Viewers credited Cast Iron for advances in cloud integration, and marked the importance of hybrid cloud undertakings. Cast Iron has been strong in integration as a service, according to Dana Gardner, principal analyst, Interarbor Solutions, LLC. "They are bringing cloud computing into traditional IT, that includes data and APIs," said Gardner.

Cast Iron's pairing with Big Blue has promise, he indicated.

"IBM middleware is integration but it is not integration as a service. That is why the Cast Iron purchase is complementary, said Gardner.

"Cast Iron gives IBM a great set of services for integration between clouds and between clouds and on-premise applications," said Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates.

The hybrid cloud has more potential than lone public cloud approaches in areas such as banking, according to Jon Meyer, manager for Electronic Channels and Payments at First Citizens Bank, Raleigh, N.C. Meyer was on hand at Impact 2010 to discuss FirstCitizens' use of WebSphere in virtualized settings.

"For our breed of applications, purely public cloud is pretty much a non-starter, but, I think, in effect, we have our own private cloud already, Meyer said. "We can move some applications between servers fairly easily."

Long term, with full encryption and other security enhancements and guarantees, he suggested, a hybrid cloud architecture could be employed in some elements of a bank's applications portfolio.

Cast Iron itself offers various means for cloud-to-on-premise integration. The company supports multi-tenant cloud services, virtual appliances and physical appliances. The company's clients include British American Tobacco, NEC, Dow Jones, Time Warner and others. Besides partnerships with Amazon and SalesForce.com, it has alliances with Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Rainmaker and others. In a press conference at Impact 2010, IBM representatives pledged that the Cast Iron operation would continue to work with such outside vendors.

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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