SnapLogic uses open source and the languages of the internet to attack the huge problem of integrating data from multiple sources.
So far, the tools required for such integration have been highly complex. SnapLogic uses simple Web protocols like HTTP and standards like RSS to go after a market estimated by some to be $13.6 billion by 2008. As an example, SnapLogic can transform SugarCRM sales data into an RSS feed that salespeople can receive on their phones on the fly.
The San Mateo, Calif. company, which is launching its first application today, has raised $2.5 million in its first round of capital from the fund of its own co-founder, Gaurav Dhillon, who earlier co-founded Informatica, now one of the biggest players in the data-integration market.
The traditional answers to integration have come from the likes of IBM, Tibco, Informatica, Vitria and WebMethods. Smaller customers have often been forced to hire developers to hand-write code to meet immediate needs. Neither are ideal for integrating data quickly and using it in new ways.
SnapLogic and other services, including Mulesource and Jitterbit, all are approaching the problem using open source. The logic: The open source community will use their standards to tackle integration problems that arise and, best of all, leave those solutions for other people to repurpose.
Mulesource is best for the highly complex work of integrating applications — like interfacing a company’s e-mail application with its human resource department’s software. SnapLogic and Jitterbit, meanwhile, are more focused on integrating databases built to store and handle data in different ways. Jitterbit uses the powerful but complex set of standards, WS-*, to process and present data. SnapLogic takes a totally different approach, using the Internet’s tools (HTTP, RSS, etc) and representing the data in simple tables, making it easier to re-use in different ways down the road.
With an interface similar to Yahoo’s new mashup-creation tool, Pipes, (see screenshot at far bottom) SnapLogic uses a series of stand-alone, connecting elements that “snap” together and build the hierarchy of steps stop take the data from one format to the other.
This might not sound like such a big deal, but it has the potential to become a standard. Once an element is built, its functionality is there for anyone to use and quickly tweak for their own needs. This is also true of Jitterbit’s “Jitterpaks,” which are open source and designed to make routine integrations take far less time, but whose elements result in more complexity in the final stages of the integration.
SnapLogic’s potential hinges on the ability to nurture an open source community, but the story wouldn’t be complete if a battle wasn’t brewing. Microsoft is working on a similar product, code named Astoria. And so it’s Open Source vs. Establishment, agility vs. scale.
We talked to Raven Zachary, the open source lead analyst at 451 Group, and he thinks that the open source strategy gives SnapLogic and its ilk (including Jitterbit) a chance to compete, but that they’ll probably need a lot more than $2.5M to do so, and fast.
Update: Corrected earlier incorrect references to some of SnapLogic’s technology.