Integration as a Service

A combination of things, including the Workday acquisition of CapeClear and doing my taxes, got me thinking a bit more deeply about integration as a service (IaaS). When I have my large enterprise hat on, I’ll admit that IaaS doesn’t excite me very much. The main reason for this starts with what I envision when I see this, however. What I picture is taking all of the mapping exercises, transformations, etc. that are done today using some visual tool from an EAI vendor and moving it to a web-based system. I still need to do all of the work to wire things up, but the actual processing behind all of this goes on outside the firewall. This certainly doesn’t make sense if all of my integration points exist within the firewall, and I’d even go further to say that it’s not very attractive when only one of the integration points is outside of the firewall. Why? Well, there are already providers out there that will not only handle the processing, but also do the mapping. Essentially, I give them information on how I want my data, and they take care of doing all the dirty work to map to the other integration point. So, from this perspective, my definition of IaaS actually winds up having me do more work than the traditional “integration as a service” providers.

If all of my integration points are outside of the firewall, things get a bit more interesting. This occurred to me when I was doing my taxes. Most of the leading tax software providers have both desktop versions and online versions. In the case of the online version, the data resides in the cloud. The data behind the tax return must integrate with data from other cloud providers, such as payroll systems and financial services companies. While this integration works well, the same situation isn’t as good for general personal financial planning software. Take Quicken for example. In the desktop version, some of my financial data can’t be automatically imported into Quicken, because the financial provider hasn’t exposed the information according to the necessary standards. Interestingly, however, when I looked into the recently announced Quicken Online, some of the financial providers that didn’t work in the desktop version were able to be integrated into the online version. I suspect that there may be some screen scraping going on, as is the case for many financial aggregators like Yahoo Finance.

Anyway, the short point to that long winded paragraph is that when all of the data exists in the cloud, there’s no doubt that the need to integrate that data for one purpose or another will soon follow. The key question then, however, is whether services should be provided to allow individuals to create their own integration paths, or if the service providers will be expected to simply integrate with other leading offerings, much in the same way we expect the software we install inside our firewalls or inside our homes to integrate. I suspect it will be the latter. Whether its the consumer market or the enterprise market, I think we all want the difficult integration problems to be handled for us. The vendors that are able to do so, will be successful.

5 Responses to “Integration as a Service”

  • Loraine:

    You wrote:
    So, from this perspective, my definition of IaaS actually winds up having me do more work than the traditional “integration as a service� providers.

    Did you mean to say traditional integration providers? If not, what’s the difference between IaaS and integration as a service providers?

  • Rob Eamon:

    In your tax service example, integration isn’t the service. The tax prep and submission is. The integration is a behind the scenes, secondary activity. It adds value to the tax service, most certainly. But I don’t think that is a good example of IaaS.

  • Rob-

    My point was not that the tax service or Quicken Online was providing IaaS. The point was that there’s a need to integrate across these SaaS providers. If these SaaS providers won’t do it, will then we need IaaS to allow consumers of SaaS to do it ourselves, or will there just be increased pressure on SaaS providers to provide more behind-the-scenes integration with other SaaS providers?

  • Loraine-

    Yes, I was comparing the traditional integration providers (e.g. a company like Sterling Commerce comes to mind) to my definition of IaaS.

  • Rob Eamon:

    Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

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