Dell Boomi bringing startup mentality to hybrid cloud market

CEO Chris McNabb wants to get word out that its integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) can really scale to enterprise heights

While Dell sold off many software assets as part of the 2016 mega merger with EMC that created Dell Technologies, it kept Dell Boomi as a critical component for helping IT shops build and run hybrid clouds. Dell Boomi offers an integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) – a set of cloud-based capabilities for connecting everything from SaaS apps to EDI and internet of things applications.

In this installment of the IDG CEO Interview Series with John Gallant, CEO Chris McNabb talks about why Dell Technologies kept Dell Boomi in the fold and how the company operates as a “startup” within the Dell ecosystem. He also detailed how Dell Boomi helps customers manage the increasing complexity that can come with building hybrid cloud, and explained the “economies of skills” the company brings to customers. Excellence in integration and data management is a key capability for organizations today and McNabb outlined how Dell Boomi can help customers achieve that goal.

Let’s start with the basics. Explain what Dell Boomi does and what problems it solves for customers.

You can think about us as an enterprise middleware platform offered as a service. We provide an enterprise capability to connect and integrate any two systems anywhere at any time. When people buy cloud assets and want to integrate them back into the enterprise, we do that. If people are struggling with productivity on their existing integration technology, we help modernize that and give them access to a mobile backend as a service, IoT, cloud and some of the other things their existing integration structure may lack. We can be complementary and/or a replacement strategy for that legacy integration and middleware you have in place. We solve EDI and supply chain problems as well as improve productivity. People can solve integration problems in about one-sixth the time as legacy integration platforms like TIBCO, webMethods or Oracle SOA Suite, etc.

In general, are customers more often replacing an existing integration solution or augmenting it?

I would say the majority is trying to find a complementary strategy. They have such a large investment in their existing ESB [enterprise service bus] infrastructure and data integration technologies and it’s very difficult and challenging to replace it wholesale. Most people say: I’m trying to connect to this cloud asset. I’m trying to activate this IoT project and so on. Can you do that for me and then communicate back to my on-premises ESB? There are some who say that the fact they can do six times more work on a Dell Boomi platform than from a legacy platform is compelling enough to start taking stuff off that platform, migrating it to Boomi. That kind of a project would be in the minority.

Typically, what’s the pain point that gets somebody to say they need your solution? What are they running up against that they can’t solve with their existing tools?

One, they’re having problems keeping up with integration demand in the enterprise. What’s happening today is sales leaders are saying: I need this mobile application for my field. Marketing leaders are saying: I need these market automation techniques and, to do that, I want data from these 15 locations. The amount of time it takes to execute those projects is just too long. Demand is increasing. The time it takes is just unpalatable. They need to speed up and they need to connect to lots of different things. Two, just sheer modernization. Three, cost reduction. I’ve had this legacy thing for 20 years, I’ve been going through 5, 10, 15 percent increases on my maintenance for that period of time and it’s getting really expensive. I need something that’s much more affordable for my enterprise.

The final one is ease of use. More people in the enterprise are trying to solve integration problems. It’s being distributed outside of central IT. You’ll hear phrases like ‘citizen integrator’ where business analysts need to collect data from four, five, six different sites, put it into a spreadsheet, aggregate it, get it charted, put it into a PowerPoint and be done with it. It needs to be done literally within an hour or so, not days and weeks. That use case is much more prevalent today and those are the principal reasons people come to Boomi for solutions.

I’ve looked at some of the things that you’ve written and spoken about. One of the issues that you’ve raised is that the cloud is increasing complexity as opposed to reducing it for IT shops. Can you explain what you mean by that?

People pursue a cloud-first strategy and that can mean different things to different people. Let’s say it means best of breed and I’m acquiring software as a service. The APIs associated with those services can be very complicated. The Salesforce documentation years ago about their API was 261 pages long. It’s a different kind of integration than they’re typically used to doing, so you have to bring in another kind of integration technology. That means you’ve got an on-premises ESB, you’ve got some data integration tools, some other vendor’s solution for EDI and now some other solution for cloud; four different products.

It’s getting very complicated. As a developer, I have to learn four different programming models, four different vendors’ products to be effective at doing my job. It makes it hard for the developer and it makes it hard for the organization to achieve things quickly. We reduce complexity by solving all four of those use cases from a single, unified platform, purpose built by the Dell Boomi organization so you can learn one programming model and apply it to all those use cases and more. That’s where a lot of our productivity and speed comes from.

As more organizations build out their hybrid cloud strategies, what are some of the integration issues that they ought to be paying more attention to?

When you buy a cloud asset and it’s acting as your CRM, HR or finance platform, you have to tie it back into the enterprise and that’s a challenge. I think what’s being missed by people is that you start losing control over other things in the enterprise. For example, if you allow the sales manager to start changing billing addresses in your CRM product, do you want to change that billing address in other parts of the system like your finance system? Ask yourself: Are they authorized to do it? Did they type it in correctly, synchronize it across the enterprise? Those are the next level questions that are coming for people. It’s more than just an integration problem. It’s much more of a data management problem. People need to look at integration providers and iPaaS [integration platform as a service] providers as not only offering integration and data movement, but also data management. Does it have a governance aspect?

How does the Dell-EMC merger change things for Boomi and what kind of benefits do you see coming out of that?

It’s the best of both worlds for Dell Boomi. Dell Technologies has a vision and mission to become the world’s leading end-to-end solutions provider – with infrastructure, services and software pieces around that. We act as a key enabling technology. When Dell sells off DSG [Dell Software Group] in its entirety except for Boomi, you can understand that keeping this business is strategic to the outcome for Dell Technologies.

We provide this key enablement as people migrate to cloud. Let’s say people are loading things onto [Dell] Virtustream, a great infrastructure-as-a-service for mission-critical applications. Dell Boomi can help solve integration problems associated with that. [Or they’re using] [Dell] Pivotal Cloud Foundry, creating custom applications that deliver competitive advantage when you build them on their cloud. In many cases, they don’t work their best in isolation so if you have more complicated integration requirements we can come along and help people connect that. There’s synergy between the independent software groups in Dell Technologies to push the ball forward for our joint customers and help them solve the challenges that they face.

Go into a little bit more depth about why Boomi was one of the things that Dell kept.

Boomi is a world class enablement technology for the modern enterprise. We address all the complexities associated with what everybody refers to as hybrid IT environments. You have a bunch of cloud applications, you went through mergers and acquisitions and data is now spread all over the place. We help people move data from any system to any system, real time, batch and so on. We provide a data management layer on top of that which is critical to the questions I just asked earlier about the sales guy changing billing.

We provide a level of governance so roles and access, authentication, authorization can be managed across all these different applications provided by all these different vendors. We are the glue and the reference implementation that starts tying this hybrid IT landscape together for CIOs so they can regain control and management over this very complicated environment. We help them not only exist and survive in it, but thrive and flourish in it because now you can adopt things quickly. You can grab cloud, engage it, communicate it, set up data management rules, set up governance rules, set up processes that communicate between all that very rapidly and now you have the best of both worlds. You can have your best of breed app and yet you have back your control of this entire suite.

So, the better you do at helping people enable and construct those hybrid environments the better it is for Dell EMC strategically for those partners.

That’s right. Everybody’s getting into hybrid and they’re doing it in different ways. We are an enabling technology that sits at the heart of that problem and provides a single unified platform to move, manage and govern across that entire space.

You touched on this but I want to explore it a little bit more deeply. In an interview with Michael Dell, he described Pivotal and Boomi as startups within the Dell EMC ecosystem. What does that mean to how you operate?

We are an independent business unit in the sense that our entire P&L rolls up to me. I have my own direct sales team and marketing and services. While we work together with our brothers and sisters in the more EMC Enterprise sales area, we have a dedicated P&L within Dell Technologies. We report quarterly to an internal board and we work very independently. It gives us a tremendous amount of agility. That’s how we operate but more importantly, we have the support of, and the framework of, the larger Dell around us.

I leverage the Dell HR system, a lot of the Dell finance system. I don’t need a lot of people to administer that. I buy services back from them that allow me to do that. I can focus on my go-to-market, I can focus on our R&D and on our service and support for the best outcome for our customers. If I were public, I’d have to spend a higher percentage of my time on some of these more centralized administrative functions.

When we spoke with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger around the time of VMworld, we raised this issue with him as well. You work with lots of different companies to achieve these integrations. Is there any concern that your close affiliation with Dell EMC is an issue for any of the companies that you need to integrate with or partner with?

It isn’t. It has not come up. We have partnerships with Dell partners and competitors. We operate independently. Our technology helps those companies as well. We live in a world of coopetition where sometimes you’re cooperating with people and sometimes you’re competing against them and that’s just the way that it goes.

Who do you view as your key competitors today?

The landscape is changing very rapidly. The integration platform-as-a-service market is growing at very high compound annual growth rates. You have players that got started early in that market, Informatica and Jitterbit, etc., but all of the larger folks are now coming to market with products. Look at SAP and their HANA Cloud integration platform. Oracle has a platform and IBM is bringing to the market a platform. That market is growing rapidly.

There are a lot of niche players – [for example,] a specialty platform for just IoT, just mobile, etc. I think Gartner is tracking north of 50-some odd competitors in this space but it’s very easy to identify the leaders. We are the only [company in the] leader position in both Forrester Waves that are currently out, the Gartner Magic Quadrant as well as the Open Radar Graph.

What is the key differentiation there that makes you the leader?

First of all, we were first to market in 2008 when the initial product was released. But our differentiation stems from one thing I spoke about earlier, the unified platform. A developer can learn a single programming model, this is how integrations are done in Boomi, whether they’re EDI kinds of things, data integration or ESB-related technologies. That’s simplifying and it’s a productivity enhancer. You’re an expert at one thing as opposed to learning four.

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