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.