Everybody talks about APIs and how they can be used for integration, but Gartner analyst Benoit Lheureux recently raised an excellent question: What about API's related specifically to integration services?
A small e-commerce provider, Loren Data Corp, recently "deployed a comprehensive set of API's for their integration-as-a-service offering at ECGridOS.net," Lheureux wrote, and this prompted him to consider what it would mean if the concept of open APIs were applied to integration-as-a-service.
Typically, Lheureux wrote he's seen B2B providers publish APIs for their provisioning engines or to support automated message tracking. But in general, APIs for integration-as-a-service are limited in scope, he writes:
I wonder if other providers of integration-as-a-service also publish such comprehensive APIs. It also makes me think that perhaps other providers - who, Boomi? Cast Iron? Hubspan? GXS? - should also do so in order to better serve the needs of their users.
He then adds:
... given that Cloud services and the SOA approach to integrating distributed functionality is an enduring, high impact IT scenario I believe that B2B providers *should* be developing an API strategy for exposing their integration as a service functionality. If not immediately, probably soon.
As it turned out, that very day, I was on a call with Cast Iron about the company's new cloud integration platform, OmniConnect, and I decided to ask about Lheureux's post.
Last week, I wrote about part of my conversation with Chandar Pattabhiram, the vice president of channel and product marketing for Cast Iron, who shared how Cast Iron's growth is in providing back-end integration to SaaS companies. But much of the call focused on introducing OmniConnect, a discussion that was under embargo until this week, when it was officially announced. It's an intriguing new offering that will not only helps you integrate on-premise applications with SaaS or cloud solutions, but it will allow you to manage all your cloud integrations from a cloud-based dashboard. In fact, all of the platform is available as a service, including the connector development kit-but you can also run it on-premise or, of course, on a Cast Iron appliance.
Pattabhiram compared it to Fed Ex - it'll keep track of all your packages as they move from point A to point B. (And, by the way, Cast Iron is the tool behind Amazon.com's embedded mashup of FedEx shipment-tracking information, according to Information Week.)
But in addition to data integration, the platform supports business process integration, he said by accessing Cast Iron's repositories of TIPs, which stands for template integration process:
What we mean by that is that if you actually go to our cloud solution, we essentially allow customers to have access to the repositories of hundreds of TIPs that we provide today. See, if I'm trying to integrate SalesForce.com with SAP, there is no reason for me to start from scratch. Instead, I can go to the cloud and say I want to create a new integration process and search "for give me SalesForce.com and SAP" and what's going to happen is that it's going to launch a list of all available templates for our customers.
After he explained the new platform to me, I told Pattabhiram about Lheureux's post, including that he had specifically mentioned Cast Iron as one of the companies that should consider publishing a comprehensive set of APIs. "What's your answer?" I asked.
Yeah, the answer is we have it, right here. At the highest level we can provide a Web services API front-end for SaaS providers to expose their service. So that's one. ... the second thing we're doing is that we're providing management APIs that allow you to extract the management and monitoring data you typically see in see in our integration-as-a-service and put it into your own monitoring or management offering.
I'd be curious to know whether readers and Lheureux think Cast Iron's OmniConnect fits with his suggestion that integration-as-a-service providers publish "comprehensive APIs."
If you'd like to read more about Cast Iron's new offering, Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions wrote a guest column for IT Business Edge describing the five pillars Cast Iron used in designing OmniConnect. PCWorld.com also ran a nice synopsis of the platform's features, and even interviewed one of Cast Iron's customers, a nonprofit company called Awana.
If you're curious about how Cast Iron's offering fits in with other cloud data-integration tools, I suggest you also read Arthur Cole's recent post, "Data Integration: The Next Step for Cloud Computing." It's an excellent look at the companies, including startups, trying to compete in this space.