The webMethods brand has a B2B integration heritage going back over 20 years. Software AG’s webMethods Integration Cloud is built on webMethods’ initial foundations, and is a key part of Software AG’s broader integration portfolio. Integration Cloud is noteworthy because of the real consideration that’s been taken regarding design lifecycle and change management.
The next frontier for a long-time integration specialist
Prior to its acquisition by Software AG in 2007, webMethods was initially founded as an independent B2B integration technology specialist, and Software AG has worked to retain the currency of its portfolio in the intervening years. The release of Integration Cloud in 2014 was therefore a completely necessary step – and in doing that, the company has started to explore some of the self-service integration needs and interests of non-specialists.
The two faces of Integration Cloud
webMethods Integration Cloud provides easy-to-use design tools to help relatively non-technical staff specify and configure integration pipelines that synchronise data and trigger actions between cloud applications and platforms and on-premises resources – but it has another side, too.
This becomes apparent in the Container Edition of the service. Here, you get a bundle of tools and capabilities designed to make it straightforward for you to ‘lift-and-shift’ prior investments – in other words, to migrate your existing on-premise webMethods Integration Server integration pipelines to Integration Cloud.
Explore Integration Cloud, particularly if you’re a webMethods customer refreshing your integration strategy
Software AG’s webMethods Integration Cloud is one element of a much larger integration tools portfolio. Integration Cloud is noteworthy because of the real consideration that’s been taken regarding design lifecycle and change management, and as a hybrid integration platform it’s worthy of consideration. This is particularly true if you’re already a Software AG webMethods customer and have a growing need to embrace new cloud services and applications, while also opening up integration tools and capabilities so they’re accessible beyond your traditional IT professional user base.
webMethods: from EAI to self-service integration
An integration specialist since the days of EAI
webMethods started life as an independent specialist integration software provider, focused specifically on B2B integration, in 1996. Its acquisition by Software AG in 2007 gave Software AG a strong integration technology offering, and the Integration Server initially developed by webMethods remains at the heart of Software AG’s integration story today.
webMethods designed its Integration Server technology from the outset to operate flexibly in a multi-party environment, with the ability to federate integration processing across distributed collections of server instances using a variety of connection security protocols.
Tracing the evolution of integration with Integration Cloud
Software AG’s webMethods Integration Cloud was launched in 2014, and is built on the same Integration Server technology the company offers customers today for on-premises installation – though new, much easier-to-use, integration development tools are now front-and-centre in the offering.
The webMethods Integration Cloud is pitched very much as a natural extension of the broader webMethods integration portfolio, to be deployed alongside other elements rather than being seen as a separate proposition. In a ‘hybrid integration’ deployment, where Integration Cloud connects with one or more of your on-premise applications as well as one or more SaaS properties, you’ll use Integration Server to enable that cloud-to-ground connection; and indeed, to date, Software AG has promoted webMethods Integration Cloud principally to its existing webMethods Integration Server customer base – although this is starting to change, as Software AG begins to promote Integration Cloud to medium- and large-sized organisations outside this base in North America and Europe.
What’s more, a Container Edition of the webMethods Integration Cloud (of which, more below) is designed to make it straightforward to take your existing Integration Server code and configurations and deploy them with minimal changes in the cloud.
Software AG uses Amazon Web Services as its webMethods Integration Cloud hosting partner. The service is currently available in the AWS US West (Oregon) and Dublin, Ireland regions.
Inside the webMethods Integration Cloud
As mentioned above, the webMethods Integration Cloud is built on the foundations of the company’s pre-existing Integration Server – Software AG hasn’t acquired any external technology or company to build Integration Cloud. Software AG has further developed on the Integration Server core to enable a single Integration Cloud account to run multiple tenants; and further to that, for each tenant to support multiple isolated deployment environments.
The most obvious area in which Integration Cloud differs from Integration Server, though, is in the development tools you’ll use to specify integrations. All Integration Cloud’s primary development and configuration tools are web-based; and in designing them, Software AG has focused principally on maximising ease-of-use and making it possible for non-technical people to get involved in integration setup.
Integration services that you create with Integration Cloud can be run immediately (directly from Integration Cloud’s user interface), executed according to a defined schedule, or executed on demand by another service or application (each integration service can publish a REST API).
The webMethods Integration Cloud has seven main features:
- Web-based guided development UI. webMethods Integration Cloud’s development user interface provides two separate experiences: one for designing simple, single-step point-to-point integration flows (for example, propagating a new lead in a marketing automation app to Salesforce CRM), and another for designing more complicated multi-step interactions:
- For point-to-point flows, you use a simple click-and-drag interface to define a trigger from a source system’s available operations and fields, and an action in a target system’s available operations and fields, using the installed application connectors; the installed connectors create navigation panels in the UI that make it easy for you to browse the available operations and fields. You then use a simple tool to filter a trigger’s data (for example to select only a subset of records) and then map source and target fields together (optionally invoking another transformation or validation service along the way).
- For more complicated flows involving more than two endpoint systems and multiple tasks, you use a graphical construction interface that borrows heavily from the MIT Media Lab’s Scratch visual programming environment – see figure 1. Here, you can combine control flow logic (if-then-else, do-while, etc) with source and target system connectors, calculations and utilities (e.g. searching a hashtable, walking through a list, calling maths functions), logic functions, existing named integration flows (any flow you define can be reused in this way). With the Scratch-like interface it’s possible to enrich simple flows with things like error handling logic, processing of multiple records, and so on.
- Application connectivity. webMethods Integration Cloud ships with a small number of pre-built connectors, each of which enables you to visually explore the operations and data formats available for use (including those that spring from customisations you might have made in the related system). Connectors for Marketo, Google Apps, Salesforce, ServiceNow and StrikeIron are provided; as well as generic connectors for protocols like FTP/SFTP and SOAP. Trained developers can build and install their own connectors, too, using the connector framework that’s also employed by Software AG’s CloudStreams product (which provides point-to-point connectivity to cloud-based applications for on-premise Integration Server customers).
- Mapping and transformation. A graphical mapping tool allows you to map source and target fields together, and apply transformations to fields where needed. There are utility functions provided to enable you to parse multiple types of common file format (including JSON, CSV, XML), as well as an extensive library of common data transformation functions for strings, dates numerical types, collections, etc. The output of your work is saved as a transformation pipeline that can then be reused throughout your installation.
- Stage management. Depending on the edition of Integration Cloud you choose, you have the ability to host multiple independent runtime environments for your integrations. Integration Cloud’s stage management feature assists you in configuring these environments and their associated access permissions and user accounts, as well as in moving integration configurations from one environment to another.
- Role and tenant management. Accessed through a simple administration interface, this function helps you configure tenants on Integration Cloud, define users and roles, and configure single sign-on options for users where applicable (via SAML-compliant providers).
- On-premise connectivity. If you’re also an on-premise Integration Server customer or are a customer of Software AG’s Integration Cloud Agents, you can connect your on-premise integration platform to an Integration Cloud instance. The connection uses Software AG’s Universal Messaging technology under the covers, and for security reasons all connections between the two platforms are initiated from your on-premise installation ‘outwards’ to Integration Cloud.
- Monitoring and reporting. If you have administration rights you have access to a simple performance dashboard that provides an overview of execution history, together with providing access to Integration Cloud audit and error logs.
Source: Software AG
Packaging and pricing
Software AG offers the webMethods Integration Cloud in four editions:
- Basic Edition. For $1,000 / month the Basic Edition includes licenses for two application connectors, one production environment and up to five users.
- Advanced Edition. For $2,250 / month the Advanced Edition includes licenses for five application connectors, adds a non-production environment, and enables you to configure up to 10 users. In addition, the Advanced Edition includes on-premise connectivity functionality not available in the Basic Edition.
- Enterprise Edition. This includes licenses for eight application connectors, includes one production and three non-production environments (development, test and staging), and enables you to configure unlimited users. Pricing for the Enterprise Edition is tailored for each customer. If you want to add more connectors, you can purchase one or more webMethods Integration Cloud Connector Packs (each of which licenses three connectors).
- Container Edition. This package gives you the opportunity to ‘lift and shift’ integration functionality you’ve created and executed in an on-premise Integration Server installation to an Integration Cloud tenant. Container Edition uses Docker images to package your Integration Server code and configuration, and provides upload scripts to transfer those to Integration Cloud. Container Edition also ships with the equivalent functionality to the Basic Edition (see above).
Software AG also offers a 30-day free trial for the webMethods Integration Cloud, the only restriction of which is that hybrid integration (“cloud to ground”) is not included as standard.
Recommendation: explore Integration Cloud, particularly if you’re a webMethods customer refreshing your integration strategy
Software AG’s webMethods Integration Cloud is one element of a much larger integration tools portfolio. Indeed, as a Software AG customer looking for a platform to integrate cloud services with on-premise resources you have several choices – you can use an on-premise Integration Server installation in conjunction with the webMethods CloudStreams product, for example. This is part of a deliberate strategy by Software AG to provide a portfolio of options and choices to customers, to enable them to address a variety of integration use cases and business situations.
Integration Cloud is very worthy of consideration if you’re already a Software AG webMethods customer and have a growing need to embrace new cloud services and applications, while also opening up integration tools and capabilities so they’re accessible beyond your traditional IT professional user base. The combination of Integration Cloud with other elements in the larger portfolio (like webMethods API Cloud) will enable you to make use of Integration Cloud as part of a wider rethink of partner integration strategy, for example.
Software AG’s shift towards a developer experience that’s more accessible to non-specialists is welcome, and clearly influenced by the market impact of consumer-inspired competitors targeting relatively simple use cases, but right now ‘pure self-service’ integration use cases aren’t the sweet spot for webMethods Integration Cloud – unless you already have a heritage of investment in the webMethods portfolio. If Software AG wants to play in this part of the market as a standalone proposition, it will have to be aggressive – and this will mean, for example, significantly broadening the set of pre-built SaaS connectors it offers and supports. It’s already working on expanding its range of connectors, and in 2017 it has aggressive plans to promote Integration Cloud much more widely.