March 21, 2008

Cast Iron Systems focuses on SaaS data integration

When I wrote about data integration vendor Cast Iron Systems a year ago, its core message was “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” Supporting points included:

  1. An appliance delivery format.
  2. Lots of heuristics for automatic mapping and quick set-up. E.g., Cast Iron claims that 70% of a typical connection can be done straight out of the box.
  3. The absence of data cleaning/transformation features that might complicate things.

Cast Iron still believes in all that.

Even so, its messaging has changed a bit. Cast Iron now bills itself, in the first sentence of its press release boilerplate, as “the fastest growing SaaS integration appliance vendor.” And when I talked with marketing chief Simon Peel today, the only use cases we discussed were connections between SaaS and on-premises apps. Simon’s contention is that Cast Iron is much better suited for such uses than, say, industry leader Informatica, which he positions as being big, cumbersome, feature-laden and, above all, focused on batch processing. Indeed, Simon thinks Cast Iron has many more SAP-to-SaaS connection customers than Informatica. (I’m guessing that set includes an outright majority of a total customer base he says is in the 2-500 range, a figure that includes both end users and some OEMs. Other comapny metrics include 200%ish annual growth in both customers and revenue, and a little over 100 employees.)

Informatica and Cast Iron both seem to be on big pushes to gain partnerships with application software vendors. But their focus is different. Informatica is after — well, they’re after everybody, at least above a certain size threshold, and that threshold is going down. Cast Iron, however, is specifically focused on SaaS providers. To that end, they’ve proudly partnered with Opsource, and hence at least implicitly with however many hundreds of small app vendors are using Opsource to port their software to SaaS.

So what’s to keep Informatica or IBM from squashing Cast Iron? Simon fondly believes that he has a whole complexity/cost/business-model disruption narrative going. (My words, not his.) I think that’s somewhat overstated. Integration is fundamentally an add-on rather than platform technology; any vendor that has temporarily forgotten how to sell on-the-cheap ala carte tactical solutions could easily re-learn how.

So any sustainable advantage for Cast Iron probably lies in competitive barriers to emulating its simplicity. Cast Iron, in essence, is all wizards and (at least ideally) no code. Can a more fully-featured competitor put a wizard layer on a code engine? Sure. But Cast Iron seems ahead in actually building the wizards, at least in its target niche.


2 Responses to “Cast Iron Systems focuses on SaaS data integration”

  1. Fernando Labastida on March 23rd, 2008 2:22 am

    You’re forgetting about Pervasive Software, an integration company who has a longer relationship with than Cast Iron, has more joint customers with, and beats Cast Iron on functionality, flexibility, technology and total cost of ownership! Pervasive’s partnerships run the gamut of SaaS as well as on-premise application vendors.

  2. Jana Balch on June 27th, 2008 5:20 pm

    Hey Fernando, how long have you worked for Pervasive? Are you in their marketing department or the sales department?

    Using Pervasive (or any other software-based integration approach for that matter) is a Rube Goldberg approach compared to Cast Iron. We use Cast Iron in our business and it replaces four or five separate tools we had to use with Pervasive before. So instead of having to use MOM, Salesforce API, logging software for the website, RIFL and the data mapper in Pervasive, now we just use Cast Iron Studio and the management console, all on one device. Very easy, very fast. And light years ahead of the traditional ways of doing integration.

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