Over the past few years, the SaaS subscription model has given small and medium businesses (SMBs) a much easier, more affordable and manageable route to deploy and use business applications. But integrating these applications isn’t always as easy as deploying them. Although things such as Web services and service-oriented-architecture (SOA) technologies promised to alleviate the situation, these technologies and standards are still developing. More pre-built integrations have also come to market, but these typically can’t be tailored for each business. And if the one you need isn’t available, you have to go back to a more expensive one-off integration.
About two years ago, Boomi made some significant headway on solving this problem when it announced its cloud-based integration as a service offering, Atomsphere (formerly named Boomi On Demand). The service enables users to model, build and deploy integrations through a browser based visual interface. Behind the scenes, lightweight, but highly functional runtime engines called atoms make all this happen. The atoms contain all of the necessary connectors, transformation rules, decision handling, processing logic, etc. to facilitate the integration.
While Boomi gained good traction with this offering, it realized that there were still lots of people that didn’t have the time, knowledge or inclination for modeling the integration with the drag-and-drop mapping tool. So this week, Boomi took another step towards simplifying the integration situation, introducing Boomi Widgets (http://www.boomi.com/news_and_events/press_releases/072909). Widgets are wizard driven. They walk users through a set of questions to configure the integration to their needs in about 15 minutes, start to finish. Users don’t need to know anything about modeling, coding, data mapping or other technicalities. You can use Widgets for SaaS-to-SaaS and SaaS-to-on-premise integrations between business applications. The Widgets run continually in the background to automatically update and synchronize applications every few minutes.
As important, Boomi has also opened up its platform and APIs for developers and systems integrators with a self-service model. Third-parties have easy access to the tools they need to build Widgets, and then embed them into the solutions they sell to customers. Boomi negotiates a wholesale price for the Widgets with the partner, who can then mark it up depending on their own marketing strategy.
For instance, I spoke with Walter DeWildt, from WDCi, an Australian SI. WDCi sees the SMB SaaS market booming, but potentially getting stalled because SMBs are concerned that integrating these applications will cost more than the application. WDCi sees Boomi Widgets as a way to create affordable, repeatable integrations for SMB customers. In about 3 weeks, it developed an integration for Salesforce.com and Saasu, a popular on demand accounting solution in Australia. WDCi can manage all the integrations it builds, and the customers running them, from the Atomsphere platform.
Making the Widgets super-simple for SMBs to use, and removing barriers for developers should be a great one-two punch for Boomi. The Widgets relieved integration hassles for SMBs, and remove integration development and maintenance barriers for developers. They can write the integration once, embed it in their application, and all of their customers can use it—essentially eliminating the integration barrier to adopting a new solution.
Because of these advantages, I expect that the Boomi Widget library will grow quickly from the handful of Widgets in it today (including Intuit QuickBooks to Salesforce, and Salesforce to NetSuite) as more developers and SIs recognize the potential competitive advantages of embedding integration within their solutions.