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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Are purpose-built cloud integration platforms the next frontier?

I recently came across elastic.io, a purpose-built cloud integration vendor, with products focused on contact import, and file export.

While such specialized services have been around for a while, the recent developments in cloud integration, also known as infrastructure platform as a service (iPaaS), have me thinking that such service specialization might actually be a part of a trend Gartner, in its 2014 Enterprise iPaaS Magic Quadrant (complete the form to download) describes as "independent and stand-alone iPaaS offerings will remain in the market owing to users' requirements for neutral integration platforms bridging megavendors' ecosystems."

It is likely that niche players would be faster to address customer needs in specific verticals (e.g. healthcare) or business process (e.g. customer service). Specially as open source iPaaS platform become available (e.g. Bip.io). Under such models, iPaaS vendors could deploy an open source iPaaS on AWS or Google Compute Engine and merely operate it, focusing on the development of the specific application integrations.

Let me give you a specific example. If you are familiar with social media management platforms like Buffer, or HootSuite, you probably know that only the mainstream social media sites are supported by these vendor. Now, if one were to "merge" the social media management capabilities with an iPaaS back-end, now users can, themselves, through crowdsourcing or even crowdfunding, extend the platform and, "voilĂ ", the social media site is now supported!

Getting Started

Before you decide to join the purpose-built cloud integration bandwagon, here is how the Gartner 2014 Enterprise iPaaS Magic Quadrant describes the market:
"This (the wide range of companies interested in the iPaaS market) will lead to an overcrowded and confusing market where differentiation will be difficult and competition will be fierce. Rapid appearance and disappearance of new providers, retrenching into vertical or geographic niches, mergers and acquisitions will be the norm over the next three to five years. Nonetheless, during the next 12 months, the net number of players in the market will grow considerably."

And if you are ready for the ride, here are some steps you should consider:
  • Identify your niche: as one may infer from the approach used by cloudpipes, gathering potential customer feedback through a invitation only approach is a great way to identify a minimum viable product (MVP) and focus the development effort. Crowdfunding is another way to gather market interest, and validate your effort early on.
  • Open source or build from scratch: if you see you business focus to be the "operation" of the service, open source may be the way to go. As the iPaaS open source options available do not seem to be very mature, it would be wise to join the open source team and make sure you all pull together to strengthen the code base. If you are not comfortable with this approach, you might be better off by building it from scratch.
  • Be ready to pivot: due to the dynamic nature of the iPaaS market, your niche might be shared with other players, or may not deliver the expected growth. Being able to quickly learn from the market and course correct may be the difference between success and failure. You may need to pivot multiple times in a short period of time, to adapt to the
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This work by The Agile Entrepreneur (@AgileEntreprenr) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

(Image courtesy of  sheelamohan - FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Post updated Apr/8/2014)