Emerging Field: The Service Integrator

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Here's a good question: Why would a company interested in off-loading IT functions to a cloud provider want to fool with the resulting integration headaches?


MWD Advisors raised this question on the company's IT-business alignment blog this week. I'd love to tell you which member of the research firm wrote the post, but, alas, the posts aren't signed. (That's a pet peeve of mine. If I'm willing to put my name on my utterly valueless opinion, then so can everybody else.)


It's a good question, because, as the post notes:

Why, if you're so interested in a model of computing which is fundamentally tied to outsourcing-and particularly if you're interested about using this model not just for one application but for a wide variety of purposes-would you choose to take responsibility for integration yourself?

The answer, of course, is that said company won't choose to do the integration work if it can be off-loaded.


Now, as I've mentioned before, the vote is still out on how integration will be handled in the cloud. Several vendors sell products-either via the cloud or on-premise-that can provide the integration, and for which you, the customer, must pay. In other cases, cloud/SaaS providers work with an integration solution provider to pre-package the integration for you.


It's not clear which model will dominate - in fact,"Cloud Computing for Dummies" co-author Judith Hurwitz thinks both will remain viable options.


The MWD post is about an option that's basically the first solution-you hire someone to handle the integration-but it's a much more expansive view of it. MWD uses the term "service integrator," which invokes the idea of a systems integrator.


The post explains three specific ways service integrators will add value. You can read the actual post for the full explanation, but in brief, the three ways are:

  1. Technical integration, which is self-explanatory;
  2. Management integration, which focuses on seamless integration service and managing everything from security, disaster recovery and so on;
  3. Contract integration, in which the service integrator is responsible for all the "back-end contracts." I love this quote from the post: "This level of integration work is about providing 'one throat to choke'."


MWD also offers a list of companies that fit the profile of service integrators. Some, like Informatica and Cast-Iron, are very familiar, but there are some new players as well. The piece also discusses how this emerging business model might make money off the cloud.