BT Global Services (BTGS) has some ambitious plans: its latest is to do for data and application integration what Salesforce.com has done for CRM: greatly reduce both the capital barrier of entry and the ongoing maintenance costs by offering integration services on a monthly “pay as you grow” subscription basis.
The BT Integrate service, launched in April 2006, lets businesses rent integration appliances from BT at a monthly rate that reflects the capacity and performance they require.
“The traditional approach to in-tegration has been to buy big servers, expensive software and highly skilled people,” explains Stefan Van Overtveldt, vice president and head of practice of BTGS’ IT transformation practice. “Therefore implementations can often cost in excess of £1m just to get running.”
The traditional approach to integration requires frequent updates, as applications are customised and updated. That increases maintenance costs without adding value to the business, argues Ian Charlesworth, principal analyst at IT advisory group Ovum. “Businesses are sick-and-tired of ploughing money into integration.”
BTGS’s approach to integration will be to offer an appliance which sits in the customers’ premises, running integration software that reflects the specifications and requirements of the customer, but managed remotely. This remote management obviates the need for highly skilled staff constantly tending to integration software.
The appliance-based service will be best suited to globally distributed organisations that require operational data to be integrated quickly and on-site, such as an airport operator, says Van Overtveldt.
“Often [such companies] will send all their operational data back to a remote data-centre, even though 70 to 80% of it is unchanged,” he explains. This unnecessary load on the network can severely reduce transaction processing speed and impair the performance of applications.
By providing complex integration management remotely, BT Integrate can offer the benefits of on-site integration without the cost of on-site specialist staff. “There is a clear sweet-spot for this kind of service: organisations that find themselves burdened by low-level, complex integration and that operate in a highly distributed manner,” says Ovum’s Charlesworth.
Van Overtveldt also hopes that BT Integrate will provide an entry point for companies that wish to implement a service-oriented architecture (SOA) at the edge of the organisation. The integration appliances run an enterprise service bus from Sonic Software that can be extend to handle more services as the need arises, in line with the “pay as you grow” payment model.
“Most organisations have an adoption model for SOA that involves single line of business deployments,” says Van Overtveldt. The hope is that such organisations see BT Integrate as a low-risk way of dipping their toes in the SOA water. “We are not just opening up a new part of the market, we are creating a whole new market: any type of project that requires application and data integration in a distributed geography. That’s a huge market.”
BT aims for global dominance – Company analysis, February 2006