The market for Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) is booming and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. This rapidly developing industry offers enterprises an opportunity to increase their agility by integrating new technologies into their existing enterprise architecture.
The demand for iPaaS solutions has been rising in a plethora of industries, including healthcare, finance, retail/e-commerce, and more. This evidently shows the need for proficient iPaaS solution providers who can cater to the needs of these diverse industries. In our quest to find such companies through this edition, World’s 10 Best Data Integration Solution Providers 2021, we came across elastic.io, an industry-first microservices-based hybrid iPaaS platform that empowers IT organizations to accelerate enterprise digital transformation.
In the following interview, Dr. Kevin J Mobbs, the Managing Director, sheds light on the company’s journey so far, its cutting-edge solutions, and their impact on industry and clients.
Below are the interview highlights
Please brief our audience about your company, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the data integration solutions niche.
elastic.io is an integration service provider platform with headquarters in Germany. We like to think of our product as ‘the only low-code iPaaS you’ll ever need.’ It combines the tools and features necessary to address the complexity of real-world enterprise integration scenarios with an easy-to-use graphical user interface.
A great example of this combination was demonstrated by one of our recent customers, Krombacher brewery: A very complex piece of integration architecture that enables rapid, event-driven data synchronization between multiple systems of record for 360° customer view was built and maintained by just a few members of the company’s IT Team.
Our iPaaS is designed to help IT specialists – both integration experts as well as ad hoc developers – spend less time with data sync, data transformation, and data migration in a variety of scenarios such as API integration, application integration, B2B, and IoT integration. In fewer words, we simplify and accelerate the creation and management of integrations.
What other solutions does your company offer, and how are these making an impact on the industry and your clients?
In addition to our enterprise suite, we offer the elastic.io integration platform as white label. More and more SaaS vendors have come to realize that nowadays, it’s not enough to build a great product. While it’s flattering to think that your product is the solution to a client’s problem, it is only truly effective when it can exchange data with related software applications.
The real game-changer is the ability of a SaaS solution to fit seamlessly into the IT landscape of potential clients so that proper data exchange and synchronization are enabled right from the start. When this happens, the value of SaaS offering increases dramatically and SaaS vendors who embed into client ecosystems experience much lower churn rates.
An elastic.io offering that helps such SaaS vendors get a head start is our software developer kit. This enables any user to create new integration connectors for their own SaaS offering or any other. Paired with our collection of more generic connectors for SOAP, JDBC, Webhook, or REST API integrations, these free our users to create integrations with almost any modern application or API.
There are, of course, clients who have no IT team or simply no time, to create integrations or connectors. These clients used to be small to mid-sized enterprises. But nowadays, there is a clear trend toward line-of-business responsibility for integrations, meaning that even the units within large multinationals struggle to access and maintain IT resources. For these customers, we have a full-service offering using our Professional Services Team. They can create integration flows or new connectors for clients.
Dr. Kevin, please brief us about your journey in the industry and how you have contributed to the company’s success.
Like many other people of my age, I was lucky enough to witness the explosion of personal computing technology that happened in the early 80’s. I learned rudimentary basics at school and even though the Sinclair ZX80 had limitations—check out the keyboard and massive 1KB of memory—the logic and discipline of creating small routines were fascinating to me. Likewise, at the university where I studied Microbiology, I witnessed the start of bioinformatics and systems biology while struggling to perform DNA sequence analysis on my own experimental data.
Despite these experiences, I will never be a competent software engineer. What I have learned through my career in biomedical research, biotech product management, and innovation consulting, is to focus on understanding customers and users – their wants, needs, problems, and pain points. If you do a good job on this, I believe the technology stack discussions will become much more focused, and the risks of developing irrelevant features will be reduced.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact has the adoption of modern technologies such as AI and machine learning had on the data integration solutions niche and what more could be expected in the future?
AI and machine learning are quite hyped terms, but the exponential reduction in the cost of computing power has opened the possibility of processing huge data sets. Approaches I observed in other industries, such as combinatorial data analysis and computational chemistry in drug discovery, were akin to the early neural net methods – essentially trial and error at scale.
These days, the State of the art seems more refined and is focused not just on the volume data but instead, the variety and dynamism of data sets used. The pharmaceutical companies all have big data initiatives, and Data42 at Novartis is a good example that the initiative isn’t just about collecting the medical research studies and clinical trial data. It’s about combining these with valuable contextual information; so that real insights and value can be mined and then applied to multiple use cases and industries.
So, how do companies looking for a competitive edge, access enough data from various sources to derive real value?
I believe that integration of both enterprise and external systems is the answer and making integrations as easy yet powerful as possible. Nothing slows AI & ML better than poor data quality, so you need to be sure you can groom and transform data ‘on the fly’ as it flows.
Our parent company Cogia AG has a set of interesting AI-driven technologies for customer and employee experience management. These approaches combine traditional engagement markers with sentiment analysis of public domain content such as social media.
In this way, linking product data (ERP), customer information (CRM), and HR systems with social media analysis provides companies with awesome insights, enabling them to better understand and protect brand equity, customer engagement, and employee motivation. So, I see integration as key to enabling AI and ML approaches to bloom further.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face and how did you drive your company to sustain operations while ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?
In the beginning, we had concerns about a few running projects because the clients were from the sectors that were hit the hardest. Some of those projects were indeed put on hold or even abandoned at a later point in time. In general, we’ve observed that companies have become more cautious about investments and long-term commitments. But on the other hand, with everyone working from their homes, the need for digitalization of business processes increased dramatically, and so did the need for data synchronization.
So, in this respect, the pandemic served, in fact, as a boost for the data integration solutions market. Having a young and largely virtual team, it didn’t take us as an organization too long to adjust. I guess the biggest task was to help maintain team morale, but we learned to do that through more frequent video calls and to ensure everyone had the flexibility they needed in their working environment to cope with the demands of caring for family and friends through the pandemic. I think the pandemic has helped us all appreciate the important things in life.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the data integration solutions market?
The data integration solutions market is clearly growing now at a faster pace than anticipated. This is not only due to the pandemic forcing companies to accelerate the digital transformation but also in general, due to the rise of SaaS. The replacement of older, server-bound software solutions with more modular, user-friendly, and flexible SaaS solutions means customers need to connect these disparate systems somehow if they want to become truly data-driven.
So, if there is a right time to enter the data integration solutions market – it might be now. However, be aware that many large companies looking to use integration platforms have considered ‘make vs buy’ and most choose ‘buy’. Developing and maintaining a platform requires a lot of resources to ensure you have either very deep pockets or an innovative niche application. And that brings me to the ‘F’ word – FOCUS.
Having a small set of deep features that are laser-targeted at specific customer needs is likely to be much more exciting to early adopters and easier to sell than a broad set of functions or ‘performance features.’ Maintaining customer focus is much easier said than done, especially when customer visits are more difficult. Nevertheless, do whatever you can to never lose touch with customers – they probably understand your product better than you do!
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in the future?
The major boost to our scalability is our recent acquisition by Cogia AG. Combining development, operations, and marketing resources plus benefiting from the international sales footprint of Cogia and the synergies between our products will boost our growth. On the technology side, we are following two broad paths.
The first is automation, not just for development, testing, and operations but also for users. The second is the ease of use – integrations, and data transformations are complex, and the integration scenarios are endless – we have built our platform to address this complexity and that sometimes was at the expense of an intuitive user experience. We have a bunch of cool stuff in our backlog, much inspired by our innovative customers and their insights, so watch this space!
“elastic.io enabled us to migrate the existing customer base from one system to Salesforce and Exponea without the need to have a heavy switch over. It was more like a smooth switch because we were able to listen on updates/deletes.” – Christian Dröge, Senior Software Architect.
“A modern architecture strategy is based on the API-centric approach for implementing various established and proven principles of enterprise integration patterns. For me, this was one of the reasons why I chose iPaaS.” – Anonymous representative of our client from the education sector.