Benoit Lheureux

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Benoit J. Lheureux
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Benoit Lheureux is a research VP in Gartner Research and agenda manager for the Application Infrastructure group. He focuses on three areas: application integration, middleware and B2B e-commerce, with the emphasis on the latter. Read Full Bio

Cloud Services Brokerage: Intermediaries To Facilitate Cloud Services Consumption

by Benoit Lheureux  |  October 11, 2010  |  5 Comments

A few months back in my post Cloud Services Brokerage: Its Time to Move Beyond Integration as a Service I introduced the notion that Integration as a Service — despite its broad adoption and enduring usefulness — was simply not, by itself, a sufficient metaphor to describe what is really needed to facilitate the consumption of Cloud services.

At the time I alluded to forthcoming research that would formally define something new, Cloud services brokerage (CSB), and explore this new IT phenomenon from various points of view. I’m happy to announce the availability of our formal definition of CSB:

Defining Cloud Services Brokerage: Taking Intermediation to the Next Level (subscription required)

Daryl Plummer and I, and a bunch of our colleagues here at Gartner are also furiously working on nearly a dozen additional pieces of CSB-related research which will be published throughout the next few weeks including a CSB reference model, research that links CSB to governance, context aware computing, and business process outsourcing, that defines the role (and evolution) of integration as a service into CSB, and that assesses the emerging CSB provider landscape.

This set of research is just an initial installment on a substantial new line of research that will addresses this new and exciting Cloud phenomenon. While I will continue to publish on integration as a service I will concurrently be working with my colleagues to cover CSB as it continues to emerge and evolve. I’ll post again soon as more of our CSB-related research becomes available.

Cheers,

- bjl

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More B2B M&A Activity: Liaison Acquires Softshare

by Benoit Lheureux  |  August 19, 2010  |  1 Comment

So yesterday on the same day that my Ariba / Hubspan partnership analysis was published — see Ariba and Hubspan Partner to Scale Up Integration in the Cloud (subscription required) — Liaison announced its acquisition of Softshare. As I’ve said several times this year I can’t publish fast enough to keep up all the B2B vendor activity. :-)

Liaison is nothing if not persistent — it keeps nibbling away at the B2B market, one small vendor at a time. Truth be told none of its many acquisitions over the last few years (the most recent was ADX in January — see Liaison Buys Advanced Data Exchange to Expand B2B Portfolio, subscription required) have rocked the B2B integration market, per se. But as we explained in our recently published Magic Quadrant for Integration Service Providers (subscription required) these acquisitions are helping to drive Liaison’s year-to-year growth, diversify its customer base, and strengthen its hybrid on-premises (A2A) and B2B approach to integration services. All likely a net plus for Liaison, Softshare and its customers, though we still believe that Liaison will need to do a bit more to substantially increase its B2B mind- and market-share.

Cheers,

- bjl

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B2B Market Consolidation Is Ultimately Good For Users – With Caveats

by Benoit Lheureux  |  July 20, 2010  |  3 Comments

Ok, its not really *that* bad but for dramatic effect I could make a case that alliances and M&A activity involving IT providers in the B2B market segment are occurring faster than we can respond to them in our published research. Its been a busy year!

Recent events include:

  • Ariba partners with Hubspan — Debbie Wilson and I are working on our response to this now (crisply: its synergistic)
  • IBM acquiring Sterling Commerce — my thoughts here, our published analysis here (license required)
  • Ipswitch acquiring MessageWay — Thomas Skybakmoen led our published analysis of that here
  • GXS closed on the Inovis merger — my thoughts here, our detailed published analysis here

So,… why so much B2B activity?

Well, for one thing B2B integration — for too long a secondary concern for many IT end users previously focused on internal integration and SOA projects — is now a higher priority. Those companies need to modernize their B2B infrastructure to match recent investments in internal application infrastructure (middleware). An additional key factor is middleware convergence as companies increasingly seek one solution to support A2A, B2B, EDI, SOA, MFT and Cloud services (no, really). And there’s the increasing proliferation of multi-enterprises processes as companies increasingly shift from traditional “stove-piped” B2B process such as procure-to-pay to more collaborative ones such as VMI. IT providers are responding to these trends by filling gaps in their portfolio of B2B products or services and by forming alliances or consolidating the market to strengthen their position to better serve growing demand.

So,… is all this *good* for you?

That’s where the rubber hits the road, right? For better or worse IT end users are right to be concerned about the potential impact of these commercial activities on products or services they use — and the viability of their IT providers. Over the years we’ve published extensive research to assess the impact of commercial transactions on product / service roadmaps and vendor viability, often for major providers like Oracle / Sun, GXS / Inovis, and IBM / Sterling Commerce, but also for many events involving smaller vendors.

What I’ve learned from covering such events for 10+ years is that quality of execution matters, a lot. A good product roadmap helps all users on old consolidating product or service lines move forward. A bad one turns someone’s IT investment into a legacy. A viable merger or acquisition grows market share and drives revenue growth. A bad one simply doesn’t. It’s kind of that simple, coupled with Devil in the Detail. Which is why we advise our clients to ask for detailed roadmaps as soon as possible — and in some cases even to hold off on significant deals — until the provider offers enough roadmap details to ensure that end users can make informed buying decisions.

Ultimately the covergence of B2B capabilities from point solutions into more holistic solutions will be good for IT end users — this leads to more product / service feature and price bundling, and it also reduces the number of vendors you need to manage. But as business wages its battle in B2B this also means there will  occaisonally be some product and service casualties of war. Though we can’t prevent that, we can help you along the way with timely, informed speculation on the likely long-term impact to B2B product and service roadmaps, and with predictions on the likely long-term impact to vendor viability. We can also offer you advice on how you can best protect and evolve your own B2B investments throughout this volitale period of B2B vendor activity.

- bjl

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Cloud Services Brokerage: Its Time to Move Beyond Integration as a Service

by Benoit Lheureux  |  June 12, 2010  |  1 Comment

This morning I depart for London to present at our Gartner SOA & Application Development and Integration Summit next week. Its the first time I’m leaving my wife and our now 10-week old Tiger Twins, Oliver and Charlotte, behind …

photo

photo 2

… for a business trip. I’ve just come out of extended paternity leave and its tough to leave and I’m going to miss my family for a week on the road, but as my understanding wife observed, “life goes on”. That attitude is not only healthy for us as we transition into a new chapter of family life and work / life balance, its also a fitting metaphor for how my own B2B research agenda is evolving.

In London for the first time I will not only continue to cast a light on my favorite topic, integration as a service (IaaS) — a phrase I coined in research in April, 2004 — I’ll also be casting light on Cloud services brokerage (CSB). In fact this London trip is a turning point because rather than just referencing CSB in my B2B integration scenario pitch — “It’s Time To Desegregate Cloud Services and E-Commerce Integration” — I’m building the case for why IaaS — as good and as important as it is — is not by itself the right metaphor for how Cloud services will be intermediated.

Wish I’d done so myself, but in fact Daryl Plummer was the first to publish research on “Cloud services brokerage” — for Gartner clients you can find and access that research here. The initial research laid out basic concepts and some of the more recent follow-on research — to which I and others contributed — filled out a few bits. But frankly we hadn’t yet pulled together a formal research plan. That, is about to change.

In the next few months you will see a more comprehensive set of research from Daryl, myself and others on the topic of CSB. Our working draft elevator pitch on CSB is as follows:

Cloud service consumers will need help to ensure they get good value from the services they consume. Given the rapid proliferation of Cloud services there will at times be a need for service providers to intermediate between service consumers and the originating service providers. These Value-added brokerages will integrate, customize, enhance, secure, aggregate, and add trust and value to Cloud services on behalf of those consumers. Examples of this are www.StrikeIron.com – which aggregates and adds value to a wide range of business information services – and www.OxygenCloud.com – which aggregates and adds value to various Cloud storage capabilities. Types of value include integration, aggregation, governance, enrichment, and any function that can be provided by a third party to ensure good service performance.

We plan to publish a research plan (in Gartner parlance that means publishing a “Key Issues” research note to lay out the research topic on CSB), publish an updated, more comprehensive definition of CSB, address how the CSB vendor landscape will emerge (and evolve from other markets, such as integration as a service, governance, etc.), and we’ll link this to other directly related IT scenarios including, of course, the emerging Cloud computing scenario, but also other directly related IT scenarios such as IT sourcing strategy.

Simply stated, it’s time to move beyond integration as a service. Don’t get me wrong … IaaS is and will remain an enduring fixture in the Cloud computing scenario for many years to comer. And my colleagues and I who cover B2B integration will continue to publish a lot on that topic, including the upcoming update to our Magic Quadrant for Integration Service Providers in 1Q11. And we will also continue to publish on B2B integration software, B2B integration outsourcing (managed services for B2B), business process networks (to be offered by CSBs – more on that later), and so on. Integration will be tightly weaved into the emerging CSB scenario. But its not like CSB will just be an evolutionary path for IaaS. Its a different business model. It social. It involves functionality like governance not generally associated with integration. And the scope of CSB impact on IT will far exceed integration.

After eight years Esther and I have moved on from being just a couple — with the Tiger Twins we’re now a family. And professionally I’m moving beyond just integration. Its all good, folks :-)

I look forward to meeting with attendees, clients and vendors to discuss Cloud, CSB, integration and everything else that’s interesting and fun about IT at our event in London!

Cheers,

- bjl

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Category: B2B Business Process Networks Cloud Services Brokerage Cloud Services Integration Community Management CSB Governance IaaS IBM Tiger Twins     Tags:

GXS Closes Inovis And Ponders IBM — And B2B Just Became Fun Again

by Benoit Lheureux  |  June 3, 2010  |  1 Comment

Today the GXS / Inovis merger closed (although not fully world-wide, as UK equivalent of our US DoJ continues its deliberations). Nevertheless barring any unexpected surprises there the combined company can now get on with planning the combined product and service roadmap. We’ve already published our position on how that will play, available here (subscription required), but the net-net is that:

  • The merger strengthens GXS’s leadership role in the B2B integration market.
  • It will take months for GXS to publish a road map to reconcile its B2B and managed file transfer (MFT) product and services portfolio; it will likely take years to finalize and execute that road map.
  • While the future of GXS’s B2B software portfolio is less certain, GXS’s combined B2B services portfolio will likely create new opportunities for customers.

Had there been no other significant M&A activity in the B2B market segment GXS — as the incumbent top dog of B2B — would have the luxury of time to sort that out and refine a new going-forward strategy. However, IBM’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce (additional research on that to be published soon too) adds a substantial new element of urgency to the equation. Both GXS and IBM both need to assimilate new large, complex acquired B2B assets and re-assess how they plan to leverage those to attack the B2B market — and each other. Will they battle on integration software or services? Will they battle on business process networks, multienterprise applications or multienterprise business process platform or Cloud services brokerage?

At the same time by virtue of their own M&A activities IBM and GXS have jointly unleashed rampant speculation about other potential marriages — for example, will other IT mega-vendors — e.g., Oracle, SAP, or perhaps even Google, Salesforce.com — consider “buying a B2B network”? What is the future of stand-alone B2B providers such as Huspan or Boomi? Or B2B hybrid specialists like E2open or Liaison?

I can’t count how many client, vendor and investor discussions I’ve had in the last 6 months covering these and other angles on the future of B2B. One thing I am certain of though: if you don’t got B2B, you don’t get B2B. If it sounds to you like this claim is somewhat arrogantly self-serving (because after all I cover B2B — shame on me to hype it up, right?) my response to that is, well, yes, it may be a bit self-serving but — hey — I’ve been patiently covering B2B w/Gartner for over 10 years — many of those faithfully through the dark years of the dot com meltdown, the subsequent EDI VAN demise, recession, et al, and — by golly — it is more than about *time* that B2B has become fun, once again. :)

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More Musings on IBM (Cast Iron + Sterling Commerce)

by Benoit Lheureux  |  May 25, 2010  |  2 Comments

My colleagues and I just published our formal, consolidated Gartner response to the IBM acquisition of Cast Iron here (subscription required). 

Relative to my original blog post on the Cast Iron acquisition its worth noting as we elaborate in the published research that I was mostly right — the most important aspect of this acquisition is the role that Cast Iron — and the Cast Iron Cloud2 in particular — will have on IBM’s emerging Cloud strategy. IBM plans to leverage the new elastic Cloud2 architecture in future Cloud offerings including integration as a service, PaaS and SaaS. We also believe it should have a future role in Cloud services brokerage.

In fairness though my colleagues and I were suitably impressed with the impact the acquisition will have on the appliance market. The acquisition makes IBM the largest provider of application infrastructure and middleware appliances, giving it a combined revenue for Cast Iron appliances and IBM DataPower appliances of nearly 75% of the $242.9 million market for application infrastructure and middleware appliances.

Nevertheless, consider my original position below in the context of yesterday’s IBM announcement that it is acquiring Sterling Commerce. IBM nearly simultaneously aquired a leading provider of integration as a service for Cloud services integration (Cast Iron) and for traditional ecommerce (Sterling Commerce). IBM can now offer a strong, hybrid Cloud + Ecommerce integration as a service offering. That would be compelling both as a stand-alone solution and as an enabler for PaaS, SaaS and Cloud services brokerage, in addition to enabling its Dynamic Business Network solutions.

There’s a lot of Devil in the Detail for IBM to sort out to pull all that together — the Sterling solutions aren’t Cloud native and the Cast Iron solutions aren’t strong in Ecommerce. But the combined potential is compelling. Of course the Sterling Commerce acquisition involves a lot more (integration, multi-enterprise Apps, ME-BPP, CSB, et al — Gene Alvarez just blogged on some of the Apps / Ecommerce considerations here), and my colleagues and I are now collaborating to sort all that out. Stay tuned. [ Hmmm... it occurs to me that by saying "stay tuned" I'm practicing a little hipocrasy relative to my recent blog post on obsolete "Save As" icons -- I mean, who really "stays tuned" anymore, except perhaps some of the good folks I know who are Hams :-) ]

Cheers,

- bjl

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IBM Acquires Sterling Commerce — And Ups the Ante on B2B

by Benoit Lheureux  |  May 24, 2010  |  7 Comments

Just on the heals of IBM acquiring Cast Iron Systems a few weeks ago, today IBM announced that it is acquiring Sterling Commerce for $1.4b in cash. Adding to other recent events such as GXS acquiring Inovis this once again ups the ante on B2B.

Gartner’s formal consolidated response to the Cast Iron acquisition will likely publish by end-of-day tomorrow.

We’re already working on a consolidated response to this acquisition as well, but shooting from the hip here’s a few initial reactions:

  • Acquired by IBM WebSphere group, along with Cast Iron, Lombardi, etc. — they’re decisively assembling a lotta B2B horsepower
  • The WebSphere group now has even *more* integration software — hey, has anyone seen my software roadmap GPS?
  • Sterling Collaborative Network + Cast Iron Cloud == A viable integration as a service offering for both traditional ecommerce & Cloud services
  • The WebSphere group now has a bunch of Apps — some inherently multi-enterprise Apps — that’s a lot *on top* of application infrastructure
  • IBM has pitched this acquisition in the context of “Dynamic Business Networks” — more expansive, but builds upon business process networks

From an industry impact think about other IT mega-vendors and think about other ‘pure-play’ B2B vendors … what impact might this acquisition have on SAP’s alliance with Crossgate or Oracle’s alliance with E2open, etc.?

I’ve said it before and its worth saying again — these are interesting times in B2B! :-)

Cheers,

- bjl

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Category: B2B Business Process Networks Cloud Services Integration Ecommerce EDI IaaS IBM Integration Multienterprise Applications SaaS Integration Uncategorized     Tags:

A Curiosity — Obsolete Floppy Diskette Icons Still Used in IBM Lotus and Microsoft Office?

by Benoit Lheureux  |  May 10, 2010  |  2 Comments

I don’t want anyone to take this seriously, but following a recent corporate PC software upgrade which included Microsoft Outlook 2007 and IBM Lotus Notes 8, I was browsing through the new menus and observed that the “Save As” menu button (for Outlook) and the “Save” menu button (for Lotus) both use obsolete floppy diskette Icons:

Microsoft Outlook “Save As” button

Floppy Icon - Outlook 2007

IBM Lotus Notes 8 “Save” button

Floppy Icon - Lotus 8

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I heavily used and distinctly remember floppy diskettes, but I’ll bet there are a lot of people using these applications who have never seen a real one, which begs the question: what do these icons mean to them? :-)

Just having some fun…

Cheers,

- bjl

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IBM acquires Cast Iron — its about Cloud Services Integration, not appliances

by Benoit Lheureux  |  May 3, 2010  |  Comments Off

Today IBM announced its acquiring Cast Iron Systems.

My colleagues and I have followed Cast Iron for nearly a decade and have watched it evolve in the last few years from its roots (and enduring legacy) in appliance-based integration appliances into a prominent provider of Cloud services integration. For several years now it has delivered integration functionality to knit Cloud services together or with on-premise applications using a hybrid combination of appliances, software and integration as a service (IaaS). On this blog I recently posted how my colleagues and I have been publishing research on Cast Iron and other providers of solutions for Cloud services integration — this market is growing rapidly and within a few weeks Gartner will soon publish a detailed five-year forecast on this interesting market segment.

We’ll publish formal research on this acquisition shortly but its worth nothing here that IBM has been notably absent in the Cloud services integration space. In fact, it hasn’t had much in the way of IaaS ever since it sold its IBM VAN to GXS in 2004. The acquisition of Viacore in 2006 gave IBM an IaaS platform, but that has been used primarily for traditional supply chain integration required for IT projects implemented by IBM’s BPO group. (links to these archived bits of research — subscription required — available here.) The Cast Iron acquisition gives IBM a general-purpose solution to Cloud-centric integration projects.

I’m meeting with IBM and Cast Iron later today to learn more directly from them about the acquisition and IBM’s intended use of Cast Iron and its solutions, but I am pretty certain that this is a Cloud services integration play — not an appliance play. Many still believe that Cast Iron is still largely an appliance vendor but in fact its hybrid approach is proven, and for years now it has focused on Cloud services integration, selling into a diverse  channel of Cloud services scenarios. IBM already has very capable appliances for integration (e.g. Datapower), but it didn’t have a solution specifically focused on how to knit Cloud services (including Cloud connectors for Salesforce.com and many other sites) to on-premise systems (including Apps, WebSphere, mainframes, etc.). IBM and its customers will now benefit from a focused solution on knitting all these things together.

So — a pure-play provider of Cloud services integration is taken out of circulation and an IT mega-vendor re-jumps into the IaaS market. As I’ve been saying, these are interesting times for B2B, indeed!

- bjl

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Expect More Native Mapping Capabilities in AppFabric and Force.com Soon

by Benoit Lheureux  |  April 23, 2010  |  Comments Off

Last night I attend the MIT Enterprise Forum of Phoenix event on Cloud Computing. These events target entrepreneurs and this one featured speakers from IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce.com with a panel that followed moderated by David Bennett of Axway. It was a very interesting event, well attended and with compelling presentations — and it was a lot of fun meeting with the entrepreneurs, which ranged from providers of various niche SaaS solutions to general-purpose Cloud virtualization.

In side conversations I caught up separately with Joe Shirey, Microsoft, and Peter Coffee, Salesforce.com (for anyone who who is curious, yes — Peter lives up to his family name — quick thinking, animated). I asked each about their company’s strategy regarding Cloud services integration, and the curious (to me) choice not to incorporate strong translation capabilities directly in their respective Cloud implementations, AppFabric and Force.com. (We recently published analysis on the integration capabilities of solutions like AppFabric — see Solutions for Cloud Services Integration / SaaS Integration Proliferate).

While each can handle simple translation requirements in their development environments, the emphasis on Cloud-2-Cloud or Cloud-2-On-Premise interoperability is on secure API consumption (the driver of promiscuous Cloud interoperability) so when it comes to semantic reconcilliation for the most part the assumption is that “he who executes the verb accepts the noun”, meaning service consumers accept responsibility for handling returned values directly, in whatever form they’re delivered.

Its a remarkable fact of Cloud computing that in most cases service consumers are happy to consume return values from service calls directly. Service consumers implement their own application logic, pull down a menu to select and incorporate calls to required services (implemented locally or in the Cloud), and natively handle return values, manipulating individual values or records as needed in their code. But what about more complex information like business transactions such as purchase orders or insurance claims? As nouns become increasingly complex it is increasingly likely that — at least at times — it won’t be convenient or desirable to manipulate the noun directly in its native, delivered form. That having general-purpose mapping functionality readily available within the Cloud development environment would be useful to developers.

Today when strong general-purpose mapping functionality is required in conjunction with AppFabric and Force.com the vendor-recommended solution is to use external mapping capabilities — for AppFabric, Microsoft recommends BizTalk; For Force.com, Salesforce.com recommends any of its many third-party Cloud services integration solutions providers such as Cast Iron or Pervasive (follow link above for references to more of these vendors – there’s many!).

So far this approach appears to be acceptable to most clients since I don’t get many complaints about it. But we also know that many users deploy BizTalk and the various other 3rd-party integration tools quite often, both for general-purpose mapping capabilities but also for suites of adapters to connect to various on-premise applications and systems, and Cloud API’s. In fact, we’re just about to publish our forecast for B2B integration solutions, which will reveal very strong growth in adoption of Cloud serviccs integration solutions — look for “Market Trends: Multienterprise/B2B Infrastructure Market, Worldwide, 2010″ soon.

If you accept the growth in adoption of 3rd-party integration solutions it exposes a conundrum: at what point do Cloud providers such as Microsoft and Salesforce.com acknowledge their user’s need and simply incorporate strong mapping capabilities directly into their own Cloud offerings, rather than referring users to external mapping and integration tools? Not as a result of my conversations from last night — or in fact any specific conversation with anyone at Microsoft or Salesforce — but strictly as a result of my own musings I figure it is inevitable that these providers will simply close this functionality gap. Why not? Its not like a mapping tool is rocket science, and its not like they need to offer the best capabilities on the market — with an 80/20 solution they can address many of the more basic mapping and connectivity requirements, while still referring to 3rd-party Cloud services integration solutions and partners for heavy-lifting mapping and more comprehensive adapters suites — no point in fully re-inventing the wheel.

So, that’s my prediction… and musings from a fine Cloud computing event here in Scottsdale last night. What do you think?

Cheers,

- bjl

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