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October 3, 2011

Q&A: The cloud integration conundrum

Jason Stamper talks to Juan Carlos Soto, SVP and GM, cloud and B2B data integration at Informatica.

By Jason Stamper

Q. We hear a lot of different views as to what customers are doing with cloud, whether or not they’re aggressively going down the public cloud route, whether they’re holding off, doing some investigation and perhaps thinking about private cloud. What sort of trends are you seeing?

A. Well, it’s a very exciting time in the IT industry and cloud is a big part of the reason why. We started to see it a few years back, largely adopted by smaller companies, and perhaps a little bit of experimentation by larger companies. Today, we’ve seen the big shift take place where now cloud is front and centre in the thinking of large and small companies alike.

In fact, we recently commissioned a study that looked at both public and private sector organisations in the UK, and it was somewhere over 84% of enterprises that responded to our survey that said cloud computing’s a very significant part of their strategy going forward. We are seeing the same thing in the States and other parts of Europe where cloud computing is now real.

Q. And, before we go on to talk a bit more about your specific offerings in this space, what are some of the, if you like, generic challenges that companies face in the data integration space, around cloud?

A. Well, whenever you ask an enterprise in particular, what are their concerns about cloud, they always mention security first, and they mention integration second. With respect to integration, which is the area that we focus on, really what companies are recognising is that, despite the compelling benefits of cloud – the elasticity, the lower cost of entry, more importantly, the speed in which they can deploy solutions – if the cloud solution isn’t integrated with the rest of their IT systems and processes, you don’t get the full benefit from it. So, they’re all asking for ways to treat it almost as if it was an on-premise solution, but still get the cloud benefits that go with it.

Q. And, as well as integration between, if you like, cloud enabled services or services that are running in the cloud, IT in the cloud, you’re talking about being able to integrate with what companies already have that isn’t cloud enabled, like their legacy environments for example?

A. Precisely. Yes, Informatica has a unique opportunity and history in integration in that we started as a, primarily, an on-premise integration product, and we anticipated what is now called cloud about six years ago. In fact, I’ve seen the press release and other things from back then when we, at the time it was called on-demand, or sometimes business process outsourcing, and what our CEO, Sohaib Abbasi, recognised back then was that, as more and more companies shift a lot of their IT to specialists and external service providers, the data fragmentation problem that used to occur within the enterprise would become even more significant and more challenging.

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And, in fact, we outlined the strategy then of providing connectivity, providing a cloud based integration solution, which is exactly what we’ve built over the last five years and we continue to expand on today.

Q. And, in some senses, CIOs might be a little bit disappointed that they still need to worry about integration in the era of cloud, because one of the perceived benefits of cloud was that these multi-tenant architectures that would be used by vendors, like salesforce.com, would mean that a lot of that integration’s done, if you like, in the cloud for them. That, obviously, isn’t going to come to pass as far as you’re concerned.

A. Well, it’s not that different than on-premise. We have many different solutions that make sense. There are stack vendors that will try to get you buy more of their stack and, yes indeed, they deliver more integration. And, similarly, to salesforce.com’s credit they continue to add more capabilities to what they offer, but if you want to link your CRM solution to, say, your financial system, or a different one that’s probably from a different provider, you will always have a need for integration just as you’ve always had within the enterprise.

Q. So, I know over the summer you announced a new version you called Informatica Cloud Summer 2011. Can you give us any idea of how many people were using the existing version? Was it a popular technology amongst your clients?

A. Yes, we’re actually quite excited about the growth and the adoption that we’ve had with the Informatica Cloud. We have over 1,300 customers using it today. What’s more exciting for me is that on a given month it’s somewhere between 12 and 15 billion records that are being integrated using our technology. This represents over 60,000 integration jobs every single day that our customers are running on the service.

I was recently trying to compare, how big is this number? I happened to run across the Twitter blog where they have a hash tag #numbers, and if you go to that landing page, I started comparing their volumes to the Informatica Cloud volumes. On a given day our customers do about three times as many integration transactions as people tweet in any given day, and that’s interesting in and of itself, but I looked at the trend if we looked back a year because Twitter had published that data and, in fact, a year ago we were also about three times. So, as they’re seeing astronomical growth in their service, so are we, and at the same rate.

Q. For people who aren’t familiar with Informatica Cloud Summer, is this technology that sits in their environment behind their firewall, or is it something you’re hosting remotely in the cloud?

A. That’s a very good question. We think we have a very unique approach to cloud integration. On the surface when you think about using a cloud service for doing data integration, what you might conclude is that the way that the integration takes place is you take data that is perhaps in a cloud service and move it into the Informatica Cloud, because ours is a true multi-tenant cloud service, and then back to on premise. That’s a very inefficient path, if you will, to the data. Moreover, that brings in additional security concerns.

Do you want me holding your data? Probably not, especially if my service is in the US, and you may have privacy or other concerns.
The way the Informatica integration capability works in the cloud is, you log into the cloud service, it’s available over the internet.

Incidentally, we have free trial, it’s self-service if you wish. What you mainly use our cloud service through the web for, is to set up integration jobs and manage those jobs. At run time what happens is, we download what we call a secure agent, which is in effect a highly optimised version of the core Informatica integration technology that works on your premise. The actual data integration takes place between your on-premise sources and your cloud solution. So, whatever you had already set up as an acceptable communication mechanism between that cloud service and the enterprise is the exact one you continue to use.

So, by using Informatica as your integration capability, you don’t add any additional latency in the movement of the data, nor do you add any different security profile than you had already accepted within your enterprise.

Q. So, in the integration market people talk about whether the integration is within band or out of band. Is the engine itself parallel to the data stream or in the middle of the data stream? How would you describe yours?

A. Well, the beauty of using Informatica’s existing technology for the cloud service as well is that you can support either. The technology is fast enough, it’s performant enough that you can use it in-stream. And, in fact, some customers use it that way. The majority of the use cases we’re seeing though, is customers set up jobs that periodically do things such as load new data into a new cloud service, or synchronise data between the cloud service and on premise services and solutions. And, typically, it’s done in more of a near real time than it is in actual in-stream real time exchange.

One of the other capabilities introduced with the Summer release is the ability now to completely call and inter-operate with the cloud service via APIs. So, with this Summer 2011 release we’ve added a set of REST [Representational State Transfer] APIs that allow you to invoke any integration job that you’ve previously set up in the cloud.

Q. Tell us a bit more about why companies would want to introduce RESTful technology, or a RESTful approach, using these APIs?

A. Well, the default interaction with our cloud service today is you set up scheduled jobs that run periodically. The advantage to having API control is that now you can do it in a request/response type environment. So, for example, you might have some internal IT system that recognises some change in state, that requires integrating or updating another service at a time other than when you might have scheduled that synchronisation replication take place. Now you have a programmatic way to invoke that service. So, it gives you what is often called near real-time integration – you are able to invoke that as needed.

Listen to the entire podcast interview with Juan Carlos Soto on www.cbronline.tv and follow this author on twitter at www.twitter.com/jasonstamper.

 

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