Niche Solution Focuses on Integrating Apps, Not Data

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Strategic Integration: 10 Business-Building Tips

Ten ways that companies can use integration and integration-related strategies to build business.

The reason integration is such a huge challenge now, says John Yapaola, CEO of Kapow Software, is that the lines of business are pushing an expansion into Web-based applications - whether it's cloud, mobile or social media.

The slide he's showing shows streams of information in roughly an uneven bow tie. On the left is a wide base of silos, portals, EAI and other traditional information systems, narrowing to the middle thanks to IT's past work. Then you hit the Internet, and on other side, the bow quickly expands until the right is lopsided, thanks to factors such as SaaS, globalization and Big Data.

"It's the apps - not the data," the slide reads.

"For us, it's not so much the data or the actionable information. It's really making the applications play together better so that the data is a byproduct of the applications working together," Yapaola says. "We're playing in the applications layer, not in data, where Informatica and those guys are playing or IBM or Oracle."

Kapow is one of the few vendors that put the focus on integrating applications, rather than integrating data. If you're not in IT, it's a subtle difference that can be hard to follow. In brief, application integration is also about data; it's just more about getting it and less about transforming or moving it.

It's a niche solution, but its approach applies to more use cases than you may at first think. Yapaola says common customer use cases for Kapow's Katalyst Application Integration Platform are:

  • Content migration.
  • Market research.
  • Competitive pricing, in particular, monitoring the ever-changing prices on the Web.
  • Anti-piracy, for stopping the sale of fake products (Calloway uses Kapow to watch for fake golf clubs) well as games, music and movies.
  • The intelligence field, which uses Kapow to watch social media for potential security problems.
  • Mobile, as a backend application to integrate in-house systems with mobile apps.
  • Process automation, to integrate on-premise systems with partner systems for credit card or account aggregation.
Kapow takes a unique approach to integration. Yapaola describes Kapow Katalyst as an "integration browser," though others have called it an "extraction browser." Several iterations ago, it was branded as a Web data server, and before that, as an award-winning mashup server.

What you call it is less important than how it works. It's designed so that you don't have to be an integration specialist or programmer to use it. Yapaola says it examines the underlying code of an application and builds what Kapow calls "robots," which are basically the integrations. It uses a process flow diagram to make this all visual and interactive.

"You basically go through the application via our browser, which has all the functions of a browser except for front-end. Instead of the front-end, we layered in a process flow diagram engine that basically goes through graphically, picks off what you need, tells it how to integrate and then on the backend it, in real time, shows you the integration you've built and you can test it," he says.

Of course, that's the simplified version. But Kapow says its users claim it can deliver integration 90 percent faster and 80 percent cheaper than traditional integration methods.

Pitt-Ohio, a Pittsburgh-based trucking company, used Katalyst to scrap screens of customer service representatives who managed package pickups for customers, including a few manufacturers. After training by Kapow, the company used business analysts with moderate technical programming skills to model the integrations and build its B2B portal.

Kapow can also use APIs, but its integration sweet spot is in situations where there is no API. Despite all the hoopla over open APIs, they're still relatively rare. Banks, government and business partners are among those that typically do not offer APIs, Yapaola points out.

The company recently released version 8.2 of its Kapow Katalyst Application Integration platform, which includes support for real-time access to Big Data. The entry point for Kapow's base system subscription is $75,000.

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