Digital Integration Platforms: The vendor landscape

The Digital Integration Platform vendor landscape is really crowded: a mix of startups, specialists with significant experience and ‘heritage’ enterprise platform vendors are all busily trying to get your attention. Which kinds of vendor and service offering are going to be best-aligned to your needs?

Top takeaways

The capabilities of Digital Integration Platforms are largely a function of vendor heritage

There are three broad groups of vendors offering Digital Integration Platforms today, all competing for attention:

  • Personal Integration specialists (like IFTTT and Zapier) are ‘born on the cloud’ and design their offerings to make relatively straightforward application integration work as simple as possible.
  • Integration System specialists (like Boomi, MuleSoft and Scribe Software) are very different: these companies initially started as on-premise integration technology providers focusing on cost and ease-of-use, in opposition to broad enterprise platform vendors; then jumped to the cloud. Their propositions are principally focused on openness and choice.
  • Broad enterprise platform vendors (like IBM, Software AG and TIBCO) have reacted to the success of the other two groups, and built cloud-based offerings that avoid cannibalising their existing businesses as far as possible. As a result, their products typically share more ‘design DNA’ with the offerings of the Personal Integration specialists, than they do with the products of the more sophisticated Integration System specialists.

Navigate the vendor landscape by asking “who, what and where” about your integration requirements

Although much of what all Digital Integration Platforms provide has a consistent basis – for example all the tools provide graphical, drag-and-drop designer interfaces; all provide at least part of their platforms from a vendor-controlled cloud environment – there are significant differences when you look a bit deeper.

In order to navigate the vendor landscape, and then to help you draw up a supplier shortlist, you should explore three questions relating to your current and future integration requirements that will require you to have architectural input as well as business change input. First, who (in terms of roles) do you need to take responsibility for designing and managing integration services? Second, what is the scope of your integration requirement – in terms of integration styles (data integration vs functional/API integration, and in terms of integration complexity? And third, where is the ‘centre of gravity’ of the integration work you need to do? Is it important that you can deploy integration services within your own data centres? Do you need to be able to execute integration services on a variety of cloud platforms?


Digital Integration Platforms: the story so far

A collision of startups and enterprise behemoths

As we highlighted in our companion report What are Digital Integration Platforms and why are they important?, over recent years, a new wave of platform and application endpoints has created a new wave of demand for technology integration – driven primarily by investments in mobile application platforms and software-as-a-service properties from the likes of Salesforce, Workday, NetSuite and more.

Enterprises’ steady progression to embrace cloud-based services and mobile application platforms over the past decade has been driven in large part by business teams rather than by IT departments, and the requirement for integration has followed the same pattern.

The market for Digital Integration Platforms (see definition below) was born:

Digital Integration Platforms enable teams to work together to design, deploy, operate, monitor and change integration software services that connect business applications, data sources and other software platforms – wherever they may be hosted. Digital Integration Platforms are delivered as-a-service, licensed on a subscription basis and priced according to usage.

It’s no surprise that Digital Integration Platforms tend to major on speed and simplicity – aiming to provide facilities for ‘citizen integrators’ (analytically-minded business professionals, rather than specialised software technologists); and moreover, it’s no surprise that we see the pattern of vendor involvement we’re seeing: a cluster of specialist vendors offering purpose-built tools aimed squarely at ‘citizen integrators’, pitched against a cluster of more established enterprise technology platform vendors retooling their core heritage integration technologies to address this new set of use cases.

It’s important to realise that although the Digital Integration Platform marketplace has really only ‘caught fire’ over the past couple of years, a number of vendors have been providing Digital Integration Platform offerings for much longer. With that in mind, in order to introduce the main players in the Digital Integration Platform technology vendor landscape, in the sections below we’ll highlight their roles in the development of this market.

First, a group of integration system specialists jumped to the cloud

The Digital Integration Platform market first began to crystallise as a small group of specialist integration vendors, already focusing particularly on speed and simplicity, launched cloud-hosted service versions of their products. For example Boomi (founded in 2000, now owned by Dell) launched AtomSphere as a cloud-based integration platform in 2007; MuleSoft (founded in 2006) first launched cloud integration capabilities in 2012.

Personal integration specialists enter the fray

As a new wave of SaaS-based marketing automation offerings really began to take root in small-to-medium sized businesses in particular, a new wave of cloud-native startup vendors entered the market with a focus on extreme simplicity through ‘plug-and-play’ experiences. They were partly able to do this thanks to the simplicity and openness of the application programming interfaces (APIs) that SaaS-based marketing automation offerings invariably provided (and still provide).

IFTTT (founded in 2010) and Zapier (founded in 2011) have been at the heart of this. The tools provided by these vendors are pitched as much personal productivity tools as they are pitched as integration tools; the technical plumbing associated with application integration is in many cases almost completely hidden from service users.

The broad enterprise platform vendors join the party

The arrival of IFTTT and Zapier provided a catalyst for established integration system specialists to step up their efforts, and it also drove vendors of broader enterprise platform (IBM, Oracle, Software AG, TIBCO and similar) to jump into the marketplace.

In a way this isn’t surprising; given their existing investments in on-premise platforms (and customer bases familiar with on-premise platforms) their primary goal for many years was to put off making a shift to the cloud for as long as possible.

At the same time, though, these vendors are keen not to be caught out by a rapidly shifting market – and as a result, over the past two years they’ve made rapid directional shifts in order to launch cloud-first integration platforms with (varying degrees of) citizen integrator-friendly tooling.

Navigating the technology landscape: who, where, what

With such a crowded marketplace, it’s important that we distinguish between vendors in a way that addresses their suitability for particular kinds of usage scenarios.

We chart the Digital Integration Platform technology landscape using a model that’s built by asking three questions about the kind of work you might want to carry out with a Digital Integration Platform. First, who do you anticipate will carry out, and take responsibility for, the work of building integration services? Second, where does it make most sense for integration services to run, and where does it make most sense for the integration tools to be hosted? Lastly, what’s the scope of the integration work you’re likely to want to carry out?

We address each of these questions in detail below.

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