In May of this year, IBM acquired Cast Iron Systems (for an undisclosed sum) to help customers more effectively tackle the challenges of integrating cloud and on-premise solutions. Cast Iron, which was founded in 2001 and has 75 employees, provides hundreds of pre-built templates and a “configuration, not coding” approach to help streamline and shorten the time application integration. Cast Iron’s OmniConnect portfolio includes three deployment options, which all share the same interface, and deliver user interface mashups, process integration and data migration capabilities:
• Cast Iron Cloud2, a multi-tenant Integration-as-a-Service cloud offering
• Cast Iron Physical Appliance
• Cast Iron Virtual Appliance
Cast Iron has positioned itself as the “The #1 SaaS and Cloud Integration Company,” with more than 450 mid-market customers and an unspecified number of large enterprise accounts. Traditionally, Cast Iron has competed against rivals such as Boomi, Informatica and Pervasive in the integration market.
IBM will make Cast Iron’s solutions available worldwide as part of the WebSphere integration portfolio. .
IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron was driven by a few fundamental market trends. First, cloud computing growth is exploding. IBM is forecasting global market CAGR for cloud computing is expanding by 28%, from $47BB in 2008 to $126B in 2012. In addition, data volumes are rising exponentially. IDC forecasts that data stores are growing an average of 60% annually, fueled by factors including the social media explosion, and the increasing trend to aggregate, mine and monetize data. More and more of this data will be stored in the cloud.
These forces ratchet up the need for simpler, cheaper integration alternatives. In the cloud, data and data control are widely distributed. And most companies will continue to operate in a blended or hybrid computing approach for the foreseeable future. Connectivity scenarios between cloud applications and data sources, cloud to on-premise, and between public and provide clouds are spiraling the number of possible integration scenarios. And developers, integrators and customers must deal with a staggering number APIs and technologies to accomplish these integrations.
While IBM’s WebSphere already includes a wealth of integration capabilities, Cast Iron enables it to provide more turnkey integration, helping to reduce cost and complexity, and in doing so, removing significant barriers to cloud computing adoption. By leveraging this streamlined approach, IBM can strengthen its role as a integration hub for its existing enterprise customers, and more readily extend its integration footprint into the mid-market.
Of course, IBM had other acquisition options, most notably Pervasive, which is a significantly bigger company than Cast Iron, boasting more than 1,000 SaaS integration customers and dozens of integrations; and Boomi, which focuses exclusively on a cloud-based integration platform, and offers dozens of integrations. (Interestingly, Boomi, Cast Iron and Pervasive–all provide integrations for several of the leading SaaS vendors.)
So why Cast Iron? My take is that IBM took this route for a couple of reasons. First, I think IBM likes the fact that Cast Iron’s line-up features software, cloud and appliance options. IBM has been putting a lot of focus on appliances, in particular, as bridge between on-premise and cloud solutions. Cast Iron provides an appliance option, and also provides integration in a uniform way across all three delivery models. In addition, IBM likely viewed Pervasive’s PSQL database business, which still accounts for a majority of Pervasive’s revenues, as an asset it didn’t want or need.
For these and other reasons, the Cast Iron acquisition makes sense for IBM. But will IBM be able to successfully surface and leverage Cast Iron’s automated, simplified approach within the context of an increasingly complex and crowded WebSphere and Software Group portfolio –which, I’m told, is now comprised of more than 30,000 different offerings? IBM already has two disparate integration stacks, WebSphere for application integration, and InfoSphere for data integration. And, smaller acquisitions have tended to get lost in the IBM shuffle in the past, and IBM Software has made additional, bigger acquisitions (such as Sterling Commerce and Coremetrics) since it acquired Cast Iron.
Meanwhile, what moves will Pervasive, Boomi and Informatica make to meet the challenges of a new integration gorilla in the mist? As important, what plays will IBM’s traditional competitors, such as Oracle and SAP, as well as cloud leaders such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce, etc. come up with as they pursue similar goals? Are other integration acquisitions in the works?
I don’t have a crystal ball–or inside information–to know how the details of how new developments will unfold. But as the drivers for more streamlined cloud integration continue to intensify, this promises to be a very interesting space and one I’ll be watching closely.