Scribe Software: Bringing wholesale smarts to enterprise integration

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Scribe Software was founded in 1995 as an application integration software platform specialist. It launched Scribe Online, its integration platform-as-a-service offering – the focus of this report – in 2011. For enterprises, Scribe Online is a capable digital integration platform that’s particularly strong in its ability to support complex deployments involving multiple business operations, departments, territories or brands.

Top takeaways

A large partner network that delivers custom integrations

Since its founding in 1995, Scribe Software has focused primarily on providing its integration platform technologies to partners that create custom integration solutions for end user organisations – and it’s been very successful in that respect.

Scribe Software has increased its efforts to sell direct to enterprises over the past 12 months, and it is already seeing success.

A rapid shift to the cloud

Scribe Software’s initial product, Scribe Insight, was a perpetually-licensed product that customers installed on-premises. It launched Scribe Online, its integration platform-as-a-service offering, in 2011; since then, Scribe Online has been responsible for the vast majority of the company’s revenue growth and Scribe Online sales ares now growing around 50% annually. There are currently around 2,500 Scribe Online customers (direct and indirect combined), and Scribe Software added over 650 of these in 2017.

A platform with some standout strengths

Scribe Online is a capable digital integration platform that’s particularly strong in its ability to support complex deployments involving multiple business operations, departments, territories or brands. Scribe Online also provides stronger version management, team support and reuse features than many other available platforms. There is room for improvement, of course; however, if you’re looking for a cloud-based digital integration platform from a proven provider with the ability to support large, complicated deployments then you should explore what Scribe Online has to offer.

A ‘new’ enterprise integration vendor – with a long heritage

20 years of solving integration challenges

Scribe Software was founded in 1995 as an application integration software platform specialist. Since its founding it’s focused primarily on providing its integration platform technologies to systems integrator partners that use the platform to create custom integration solutions for their clients; Scribe Software has ramped up its efforts to sell direct to enterprises over the past 12 months. The company currently works with around 1,200 partners, and indirectly or directly serves around 12,000 customers.

Historically Scribe Software has focused its product development and business development on serving the needs of mid-sized organisations. In particular, Scribe built a strong reputation for solving the integration challenges found in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem. It works across industries, without any particular industry specialisation (its partners tend to bring industry-specific content and skills to customers on top of the core Scribe technology). Its initial product, Scribe Insight, was a perpetually-licensed product that customers installed on-premises.

Scribe Online: Scribe shifts from on-premises to cloud platform

Scribe Software launched Scribe Online, its integration platform-as-a-service offering – the focus of this report – in 2011. Since the launch of Scribe Online, this offering has been responsible for the vast majority of Scribe Software’s revenue growth, and this business line is now growing around 50% annually. The company’s revenue is now split roughly evenly between Scribe Insight and Scribe Online, and the company actively encourages Scribe Insight customers and partners to adopt Scribe Online for new integration projects.

Now, Scribe Software has three groups it sells to:

  • Systems Integrators and Managed Service Providers use Scribe’s tools and platforms to help their customers deliver integration solutions and services.
  • SaaS providers like ON24 and Silverpop (now part of the IBM Watson Marketing Cloud) use Scribe Online as the foundation of their integration products/services for their own SaaS offerings, sometimes wrapping and branding it so it appears as a seamless part of their offerings.
  • Enterprises subscribe to Scribe Online to connect on-premises and cloud-based applications, platforms and systems.

There are currently around 2,500 Scribe Online customers (direct and indirect combined), and Scribe Software added over 650 of these in 2017.

Inside Scribe Online

As mentioned above, Scribe Online is Scribe Software’s core offering today. The heart of Scribe Online is a multi-tenant platform, hosted on the AWS cloud, that delivers Scribe’s suite of web-based tools for specifying, deploying and managing integration logic packages. However, as is increasingly the case with the digital integration platforms available today, Scribe Online’s agent-based architecture enables customers to connect both on-premises and SaaS applications.

Scribe Online’s main components are as follows:

  • Integration Designer. This web-based visual design environment (see figure 1) provides all the core design and specification tools needed for customers to create integration ‘maps’ that connect systems together. Designers compose Maps from blocks by dragging and dropping ‘control blocks’ (that specify flow semantics, such as branching and looping) and operations blocks (that specify particular operations, like creating or deleting records, or transforming data record content and structure) onto a canvas. There’s also an interactive debugger that allows you to set conditional breakpoints and then step through Map execution. There are three kinds of Maps:
    • Query Maps use a connection to retrieve a dataset from a source system for processing (it’s easy to retrieve only those records that have changed since the last time the map was executed).
    • Message Maps act when messages are received through endpoint applications through connectors (and via a unique URL). Message maps work asynchronously.
    • Request/reply Maps receive requests from source application in JSON format through a REST API (and unique URL), and then work to build responses to send back to the calling application. Request/reply maps work synchronously.

Maps are chained together to create Solutions that you can set to execute on-demand (in response to an API call or via the Scribe Online UI) or to a pre-defined schedule.

  • Agents. Agents are the processing engines for Scribe Maps and Solutions. As mentioned above, Agents run on the Scribe Online cloud, or you can install them yourself on Windows Server hosts that are resident in your own data centre(s).
  • API. Scribe Online offers a REST API that provides application programmers with access to almost all the functionality of the platform (indeed, the Scribe Online UI and tools are built on top of this API). This allows you to embed the functionality of Scribe Online in another SaaS application or access any part of the platform programmatically. The API enables developers to automate the creation of users and organisations; the installation and configuration of Agents; creating Maps and Solutions; monitoring running Solutions; and more.
  • Management Console. Administrators have access to additional components from the Scribe Online Dashboard (as well as the Integration Designer). Administrators use the Management Console to maintain Agents, monitor the health and performance of Solutions, manage Solution versions and deployments, explore execution history, and administer users and their work spaces (which are called Organisations).
  • Marketplace. Available from within the Scribe Online UI, the Marketplace provides a directory of Scribe Certified Connectors available from Scribe and its partners. From here, you can search for Connectors or request them, install them (if you have a license) and uninstall them.

Figure 1: Scribe Online’s Integration Designer

Source: Scribe Software

Scribe Online’s heritage as a platform primarily used by systems integrators to develop systems for multiple clients means it has an uncommon sophistication in its support for multi-tenancy and delegated administration. This means that not only can licensees embed Scribe Online and offer it as an application capability to multiple of their own clients; but large enterprise subscribers can create central implementations as part of a ‘centre of excellence’ and then enable multiple business and technology teams to work as semi-autonomous subsidiaries within one overall installation. Flexible access and rights management means that ‘master administrators’ can set overall platform use rules, but subsidiary teams can have control over their own ‘child’ organisations within the master account.

Team support, versioning and reuse

Scribe Online provides welcome support for management of integration Maps and Solutions through their lifecycles. Version management of Maps is a core function of the platform; each time a Map is saved, Scribe Online saves a new version, and gives you the opportunity to add a revision comment. Administrators can revert to older versions, and choose to export (or import) any stored version. If you prefer, you can use your own version management system along with Scribe Online (e.g. Git, SVN) as an alternative.

Once you create a Map, you can save it as a JSON file and then reuse it within other Solutions. Maps can call other Maps, so you can use Maps to hold reusable components and accelerate future development projects. It’s also easy to export Solutions and Maps from one environment and import them into another.

Connectors and other assets

Scribe Software provides a set of Connectors for use with Scribe Online, packaged into three separate tiers of subscription: Basic, Standard and Professional. The Basic Connector suite provides a range of Connectors for popular CRM, Marketing Automation and ERP applications, as well as popular databases. The Standard Connector suite adds a wider range of technology Connectors, including connectivity to ERP suites typically deployed in large enterprises. The Professional Connector suite adds a Connector for the Scribe Platform API, which enables users to access all of the API functions of the platform from the platform’s visual designer without having to write code.

When you set up a Scribe Online account and start building integration Maps and Solutions, you first select one or more of the platform’s pre-built Connectors. These expose an application’s entities, objects and metadata in the visual designer. The subscription tier you choose (see Pricing and packaging below) determines the total number of Connections you can create between the Scribe Online platform and an application instance. The number of integration Solutions you run on those Connections is, however, unlimited.

In February 2018, Scribe Software announced a Connector Developer Program that aims to encourage partners to build and support Connectors, making them available through the Scribe Online Marketplace. The first fruits of this programme are Connectors for Magento and ServiceNow, created by Datix, Inc.

Deployment options

The Scribe Online tools are hosted on AWS, but you can deploy Maps that connect both on-premises and cloud applications. You can use Scribe Online to connect to your cloud applications by deploying distributed processing engine agents in Scribe Online’s own cloud environment (Cloud Agents), and you can connect to on-premises applications by deploying On-Premise Agents (requiring Windows Server) in your own data centres. Agents are self-managing; they work to ensure they remain up-to-date with new version releases, and they also take responsibility for upgrading connectors that they’re collocated with.

Depending on your subscription tier (see Packaging and pricing below), you may have access to multiple runtime environments (which, for example, you could use for development, test and production). Administrators promote Solutions through these environments either through the Scribe Online Management Console, or programmatically through the Scribe API.

Packaging and pricing

Scribe Online is available in five service tiers – Basic, Standard, Professional, Custom and Platform:

  • The Basic tier is aimed at organisations wanting to implement simple front- to back-office application integration. It includes the use of three Connections, supports one production Organisation and includes the Basic Connector suite.
  • The Standard tier is aimed at organisations with more complex front-office/back-office requirements, those that want to add marketing automation integration capabilities and gain access to a wider range of connectivity options. It includes the use of five Connections, and also provides a test environment and includes both the Basic and Standard Connector suites.
  • The Professional tier is aimed at organisations needing to address more complicated scenarios across larger operations. It includes the use of eight Connections, includes two test environments and includes the Basic, Standard and Professional Connector Suites. It also includes the Professional tier of the Scribe Replication Service.
  • The Custom tier is aimed at organisations wanting to implement integration enterprise-wide. It includes unlimited use of Connections and unlimited test environments, and enables a customer to additionally configure and deploy multiple child Organisations (so enabling multi-tenancy for its own environment). It also includes the Enterprise tier of the Scribe Replication Service.
  • The Platform tier is aimed at organisations wanting to embed an integration platform as part of its own offering to customers or to distribute integration solutions to their customers. It provides broadly the same set of capabilities as the Custom tier, but doesn’t include the Scribe Online Replication Service.

More information on packaging and pricing is available at https://www.scribesoft.com/products/scribe-online/scribe-online-pricing-tiers/ . Detailed tier pricing is only available by contacting Scribe Software.

Future plans

Scribe Software’s product plans currently revolve around enhancing Scribe Online’s capabilities for what it calls ‘enterprise’ (large business) workloads. It’s working on supporting stream-based integration scenarios (via support for technologies like Apache Kafka); improving its lifecycle management capabilities; and rapidly increasing the size of its Connector portfolio (via its Connector Developer Programme and other partnerships).

Recommendation

For enterprises, Scribe Online is a capable digital integration platform that’s particularly strong in its ability to support complex deployments involving multiple business operations, departments, territories or brands. Thanks to its heritage of working primarily through partners, Scribe Software has built a very significant customer base (and market experience) while still retaining a low profile. Scribe Online also provides stronger version management, team support and reuse features than many other available platforms. There is room for improvement, of course; for example, currently Scribe Online Cloud Agents are only available in four data centres (two in the US and two in Europe) – which may be too limiting for your regulatory compliance or reliability needs. There’s also a relatively limited range of Connectors available today (though Scribe Software has plans to address this).

However, if you’re looking for a cloud-based digital integration platform from a proven provider with the ability to support large, complicated deployments then you should explore what Scribe Online has to offer.

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