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Phil Wainewright

Integrating Process in the Cloud

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When you think about cloud integration, the names that first spring to mind are all companies that specialize in data integration — Boomi, Cast Iron, Pervasive, Informatica and others [disclosure: Boomi recently paid for me to write a product briefing]. This reflects what you might call the 'data-first' approach that's been prevalent in enterprise computing; the role of integration middleware has been to transform data for exchange between one application silo to another, and the first generation of cloud integration vendors have replicated this function.

The cloud makes it easier to take a 'process-first' approach to integration, one that focuses on the desired business result and integrates processes at the same time as the underlying data within them. This approach sees data integration as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself. The sentiment is not new; traditional enterprise integration stacks are all topped off with business process management layers. But cloud applications, with their ready support for REST APIs, mash-ups and widgets, seem to provide a more natural environment for user-centric process integration.

Interestingly, most of the vendors that are taking a process-first approach seem to be based outside the US. Cordys, based in the Netherlands, is one. Another is Fujitsu. Both have been featured in ebizQ webcasts. Recently, I spoke to the CEO of a French startup, RunMyProcess, the first pureplay vendor I'm aware of in the field. Its customer base also has a non-US bias, with half in Europe and the rest in Asia and South America. But after closing a $2.2m funding round, it has its sights set on correcting that bias.

Like other cloud integration vendors, RunMyProcess offers a cloud-based integration hub that acts as a single point of integration between multiple applications, ensuring that its customers avoid the complex maintenance challenges of point-to-point integrations. It differs from other vendors in treating its hub as a platform for creating applications using process-based design. "It doesn't really make sense to separate the buiding of custom applications from integration," founder and CEO Matthieu Hug told me.

Nor does it make sense to separate the automation of processes from the people they serve — a theme that I highlighted as one to watch this year when I wrote in December about People-Oriented Architecture. Thinking about process adds the concept of orchestration on top of integration, introducing human interaction and decision-making to act on the data flow. "Very few things are end-to-end automated within an enterprise context," Hug told me. Human beings are needed to intervene and approve an order or evaluate a credit check. "In an enterprise context, nothing is standalone, nothing is automatic."

RunMyProcess leverages multi-tenancy so that its growing library of connections is shared by all customers. Currently there are more than 1200 individual services connected from around a hundred applications or sources. It is adding support for third parties to be able to build their own applications on the platform. Currently the most common user pattern is where an enterprise is migrating from Lotus Notes to Google Apps and uses RunMyProcess to add workflow into the Google Apps environment. As a result, the company is building useful partnerships with the up-and-coming generation of Google Apps resellers, and vies for top place as the most highly rated participant in the Google Apps Marketplace.

4 Comments

Working in the cloud is definitely the way to go. Thanks for this and I can't wait to see what companies continue to unroll and how Google handles everything.

Couldn't agree with you more:
"In an enterprise context, nothing is standalone, nothing is automatic."
That's why I hide a smile when someone tells me "we have all our processes in SAP" This is never going to happen. All Processes are at one point or another relying on human interaction, human knowledge and decisions.

This raises my interest, however: "Currently the most common user pattern is where an enterprise is migrating from Lotus Notes to Google Apps and uses RunMyProcess to add workflow into the Google Apps environment."
How many companies are really migrating right now?
I know of some initiatives, but not too many.
In general I am tempted to say, people will sooner migrate from Lotus Notes than from Microsoft. But hey, sooner or later, the Cloud's the way to go!

I agree that business process focus, rather than data focus makes especially good sense in cloud integration, although really, it makes good sense in most any kind of application integration strategy. And also, a single cloud platform for both integration and app development also makes good sense.

I do feel like I need to challenge the assertion that only integration vendors in Europe are doing anything with business process oriented integration, or cloud-based platforms for integration and application creation. I can't speak for my competitors, but I know we've got hundreds of customers doing their app integrations on the Pervasive DataCloud and other companies like Aha! building analytics applications and such on DataCloud as well.

North American companies are pioneering in things like bi-directional mashup implementations. See my blog post on that from back in May: http://bit.ly/aLgoMs It's interesting to note, though, that most of the companies taking advantage of Pervasive's advanced cloud integration abilities, such as mashups, are in Europe.

Do you think maybe the perception of European integration vendors as more focused on process and cloud could be based more on different customer requirements and awareness in the European market?

Paige

I agree. Cloud-based integration is a powerful trend. I am founder and CEO of Itensil, another process-first SaaS. We share your vision from an earlier EBizQ post of people-oriented architectures that enable iterative, collaborative development and ad hoc, custom computing.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

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