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Tragically HIP: Major Players Concentrate on Hybrid Integration Platforms

IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and other traditional DI powers are no longer leading the integration-platform-as-a-service pack. Instead, they're working feverishly on HIP for the interconnected environments of the future.

When we last checked on the then-new integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) market, three companies -- Dell Inc.'s Boomi subsidiary, IBM Corp., and Informatica Corp. -- ruled the roost.

This was according to market-watcher Gartner Inc., which released its inaugural iPaaS Magic Quadrant a little over two years ago. A lot has changed since then. IBM, one of the two biggest players in on-premises data integration (DI), is nowhere to be found in the "Leaders" quadrant of Gartner's 2016 "Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service."

Informatica and Dell Boomi are still there. They're joined by Jitterbit Inc., MuleSoft Inc., and SnapLogic Inc. SnapLogic shouldn't be a stranger to data management professionals, nor should MuleSoft, which provides commercial support for the popular Mule enterprise service bus (ESB). Many commercial DI and business intelligence players bundle Mule as a default ESB.

Although Dell and Informatica are the clear front-runners in Gartner's Leaders quadrant, MuleSoft isn't far behind. All three are far out ahead of IBM, Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., and SAP AG (which develops and markets several DI technologies). Why are IBM, Oracle, and other traditional DI powers so poorly positioned in the enterprise iPaaS market?

More to the point, can they realistically hope to catch up?

They probably can. It's still early days, and all of these vendors have deep pockets. In the past, all have demonstrated their willingness to spend money to shore up feature, function, or even platform shortcomings. To a substantial degree, the disruption in the 2016 edition of the "Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service" is a function of a ceaselessly changing iPaaS market.

Take IBM, which now markets two iPaaS offerings: IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Live and the newer IBM Integration Bus on Cloud. Because IBM's Integration Bus on Cloud is so new -- it was released in September of 2015 -- Gartner didn't review it.

As for Cast Iron Live, the market watcher lauded Big Blue's global presence and, in particular, its roll out of Cast Iron Live across its globally distributed SoftLayer data centers. (IBM acquired SoftLayer Technologies Inc., a large global hosting provider, in 2013.) Gartner also praised IBM's Cast Iron Live road map, which integrates with IBM's BlueMix, a PaaS offering that competes with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"The road map of the underlying platform looks to provide comprehensive integration capabilities that can be accessed as a standalone iPaaS solution with Cast Iron Live, and also as the underlying runtime engine for many of the hybrid integration services available on IBM Bluemix," the report notes. "IBM's iPaaS offering could be highly competitive in the future, if packaged right."

Big Blue's Cast Iron Live was also rated highly by respondents to Gartner's iPaaS end-user survey, the report says. Then why isn't IBM an iPaaS Leader? Poor iPaaS growth, for one thing: recently, Cast Iron Live has trailed competitive offerings in customer adoption.

There's a reason for that, however. According to Gartner, Big Blue has been preoccupied with executing on a hybrid integration platform, or HIP. HIP describes the intersection of cloud and on-premises systems. IBM's primary HIP offering is its aptly named BlueMix Hybrid Integration Services.

What's more, IBM positions its new Integration Bus on Cloud service, not Cast Iron Live, as the iPaaS complement to BlueMix. Given that IBM has a huge investment in on-premises integration technologies, along with (in its mainframe, minicomputer, and RISC-Unix businesses) a huge stake in legacy on-premises servers, its HIP-focused strategy makes some sense.

That doesn't explain why Informatica, which has no less of an investment in on-premises DI, has been so successful with its own iPaaS strategy. As of late 2015, Informatica claimed more than 4,500 users of Informatica Cloud, which is available in several different flavors.

Thanks to its interoperability with Informatica's on-premises DI technologies, Informatica Cloud is commonly used in hybrid (on-premises and cloud) projects, Gartner says.

Perhaps most important of all, Informatica has aggressively partnered with other cloud players. "Informatica continues to extend its iPaaS market reach ... [by] deepen[ing] its synergy with partners [via] IoT integration for Salesforce and enhancing [the] applicability [of its iPaaS offering] to the marketplaces of AWS, Tableau, and Microsoft's analytics and Azure environments," Gartner points out.

Repositioning for HIP

IBM and other large players seem to be victims of HIP-related revamping or repositioning. "The ability ... to deliver iPaaS functionality in the form of equivalent on-premises middleware products, or as part of a wider ... HIP, is a capability buyers increasingly require and that is likely to become a necessary feature to compete in this market," the Gartner report explains.

Informatica has had only to tweak its HIP strategy by incrementally building out integration and interoperability between its on-premises Informatica DI technologies and Informatica Cloud. IBM, Microsoft, and others have had to undertake more substantial revisions.

Put another way, Informatica was lucky with Informatica Cloud. Microsoft, on the other hand, ported an existing data and application integration product, BizTalk Server, to the iPaaS context. It wasn't so lucky. On paper, Azure BizTalk Services seems to have everything going for it. It's an Azure service, after all, and Redmond is right behind Amazon Inc. and AWS in cloud adoption.

More recently, however, Microsoft announced the new Azure App Service, which also has an iPaaS component, called Logic Apps. Now Azure has two iPaaS offerings?

Call it a reboot. First things first: Microsoft expects to ship a new (on-premises) BizTalk Server 2016 release later this year. However, Microsoft hasn't said whether it plans to offer BizTalk Server 2016 as an iPaaS offering via Azure. If anything, Redmond has focused on promoting Azure App Services, especially Logic Apps, as the focal point of its iPaaS strategy.

The result, not surprisingly, is that Microsoft's "users cite confusion over the long-term viability of Azure BizTalk Services, because [Microsoft] has changed track from BizTalk Server to BizTalk Services to Logic Apps," Gartner notes. "Equivalent capabilities aren't offered in the Logic Apps preview, so proof points on the Azure App Service platform are not yet available."

This confusion is understandable. It's even understandable that Gartner decided to ding Microsoft for it, but Azure App Services, much like IBM's BlueMix Hybrid Integration Services, is a HIP-oriented play. Even if it lacks parity with (and, as Gartner notes, doesn't offer the same capabilities as) Azure BizTalk Services, on-premises BizTalk Server, or, for that matter, competitive offerings from other vendors, Azure App Services is the future.

This future looks relatively promising, according to Michael Stephenson, a cloud and integration architect with Northumbria University (UK) and a Microsoft MVP.

"App Service's integration is not mature enough yet to compete like for like with some of the [iPaaS] competitors ... [but] in the longer term though I believe we will see a lot of this kind of ... scenario," Stephenson wrote on his blog, alluding to a scenario in which a customer moves to App Services from a competitive offering.

"If you look at the current pricing for Azure App Service and compare it with some of the integration[-]specific vendors then it is difficult to see how they would be able to compete on price when they offer no other services."

Azure App Services, then, is very much a work in progress. IBM's HIP strategy is also still coming into focus. The upshot is that when Gartner publishes the 2018 edition of its "Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service", the "Leaders" quadrant could again look very different.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at evets@alwaysbedisrupting.com.


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