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October 22, 2013

Startup Aims to Make Integration a ‘Snap’

Alex Woodie

Ever since there were two kinds of computers in this world, there has been a need for integration. And while it may be one the most long-lived elements of IT, enterprise integration is far from being a safe place, especially with startups like SnapLogic trying to out-innovate established integration firms like TIBCO and Informatica.

SnapLogic is trying to upset the status quo when it comes to integration. The company is working to create a next-generation, cloud-based integration platform that can not only address both data and application integration challenges, but gives customers the capability to orchestrate data, applications, and process flows involving multiple cloud and on-premise systems.

The company’s SnapLogic Integration Cloud consists of several elements, including Web-based design, management, and monitoring tools, a library of 160-plus connectors for major applications and databases, and the server-based integration SnapPlex engine, which until today lived strictly on Amazon Web Services. It also offers a SDK that allows anybody to build their own connectors, and provides a REST-based API for application connections.

With today’s unveiling of the Winter 2014 release, the company is giving customers the option to deploy SnapPlex on-premise, which is important for corporations that keep their crown jewels safe behind the firewall. SnapLogic also added multi-point workflow capabilities, new DR options, and new or improved Snap connectors for Amazon Redshift, MongoDB, NetSuite, Qualys, ServiceNow, Tableau, Workday, and Zuora. As you can tell from the connector list, the company tackles not only production ERP, HR, and CRM systems, but big data analytical systems, too.

The San Mateo, California company has its work cut out for it as it goes up against established vendors in the multi-billion-dollar integration space. Not only is it facing down the TIBCOs and Informaticas of the world, but other firms like Software AG, SAP, Oracle, and IBM, which have big integration toolsheds and armies of professional services personnel–not to mention a raft of other integration as a service providers coming out of the cloud.

Keeping the software simple and easy to use will be the key to SnapLogic’s success. Darren Cunningham, the company’s vice president of marketing, says it’s working to enable “citizen developers” to build connections and workflows between applications and data sources.

“One customer said it takes longer to write an email to the TIBCO developer than it would be to accomplish an integration task in SnapLogic,” he says. “We’re not saying you should rip and replace [TIBCO] for all use cases. There’s going to be a need for some of that big iron in the enterprise. But for lighter, faster requirements, the agility that the SaaS application buyers expect, those technologies are simply not going to be able to keep up with the pace of demand from the business.”

The need for easy-to-use integration tools will increase as organizations mix on-premise and cloud-based applications, both for production and analytical systems, he says. “If you look at how organizations historically solved data and application integration requirement, they separated them,” Cunningham says. “They created one team for application integration, and used TIBCO for message-oriented strategy or a service bus, and on the other side of the equation was the ETL or data warehousing team–an Informatica group.

“What we’re seeing in the cloud,” he continues, “is that that way of thinking about it is no longer really relevant. That playbook of having two teams, two technologies–we call that the integrator’s dilemma. Really, what you need is one platform that can address both styles or any styles of integration, whether they’re event-based, real time, or batch-oriented ETL. That’s what we’re set up to do.”

The company has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Gaurav Dhillon, who co-founded data integration and ETL giant Informatica in 1992. The fact that Dhillon is now competing directly against the company he founded should give you an idea of the challenges that are evident in the integration space, and the potential for improving upon the status quo.

Dhillon was an early investor in SnapLogic, and today the company has received funding from a range of firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Ignition Partners. The company is in its early stages still, and has slightly more than 100 customers, including Bloomin’ Brands, Dannon, Toms Shoes, Pandora, Netflix, and One Kings Lane.

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