Much of the discussion with cloud integration focuses on integrating with on-premise, even legacy, applications. But with more companies moving into SaaS, there's another integration question worth considering: How do you integrate between these cloud-based companies so you avoid SaaS silos?
It's an issue Gartner Vice President and Fellow Daryl Plummer raised earlier this month at the Cloud Leadership Summit in San Francisco. It might not be a problem now, but within the next five years, Plummer contends you could be using hundreds of services from different cloud providers, according to this ComputerWorld column by Ryan Nichols.
It's a huge area for potential growth, according to Plummer and others at Gartner, as companies look for an intermediary to add value to existing services, assure security and, of course, solve that ever-tricky question of integration between applications, both in the cloud and on-premise. Plummer is quoted as saying:
We think brokerage is not just a big deal. It's one of the biggest deals. Through 2015, cloud service brokerage represents the single largest revenue growth opportunity in cloud computing... bar none. I'm saying that over infrastructure as a service, I'm saying that over platform as a service, I'm saying that over software as a service.
Nichols focused on Plummer's comments primarily because Nichols is the vice president of Cloudsourcing and Cloud Strategy for Appirio, a company that in some ways is what Plummer calls a "cloud service brokerage." That's actually how I found Nichols' article-I was doing a bit of further digging on Appirio after reading about its rather unique integration story on ZD Net's Software & Services Safari blog.
That blog is written by Brian Sommer, a long-time consultant and researcher who founded his own IT sales and marketing consulting firm, TechVentive. TechVentive's client list includes Workday, one of the three main companies for which Appirio's solution provides integration.
Even so, I don't think there's any denying Appirio has a compelling take on SaaS integration. In addition to Workday, it focuses on integrating applications from Salesforce.com and Google. Unlike other integration companies, the focus isn't on integrating cloud-to-on-premise, but from cloud-to-cloud applications. But even more intriguing is that it often does this via mobile devices.
Sommer shares one example of an Appirio client in the remote health care-delivery business-whatever that means. The company has approximately 6,000 field employees who use several different types of Apple portable devices to access their work schedules, patient information and care instructions. These devices pull this information from the cloud, but also push the information out, allowing the employees to share information.
"If your firm has a material field service organization, you'll likely need someone like Appirio soon," Sommer writes.
He's not the only one impressed by Appirio. Internet.com recently ran a piece on the company's ability to "free information from so-called SaaS silos" and Ramon Chen named it one of his five favorite cloud computing companies.
Another ZD Net blogger, Dennis Howlett, featured Appirio's new CloudWorks solution, providing more specifics about the solution and also citing Plummer's remarks about managing hundreds of services. Howlett asked some excellent questions about how Appirio will keep up as the use of services spreads from a few core companies to hundreds, and expressed some healthy skepticism about how Appirio and its potential partners will provide that level of integration at a decent price.