This is one of the key premises that Liaison's cutting-edge cloud integration platform, ALLOY, is built on. ALLOY makes a clear distinction between the areas in which the customer brings the most value to the table, and the areas in which the service provider—in this case, Liaison—brings the most value. “Integration has a substantial learning curve—one that needn't be scaled when integration can be outsourced to a competent service provider such as Liaison,” says Renner.
Providing integration operations on a turnkey, full-service basis is only half of ALLOY's value proposition. ALLOY also performs fundamental data management work in persisting, storing, securing, and putting the data into usable data models, while simultaneously giving customers broad controlled access to the data through a large number of APIs. “Any of the interesting work that is done with the data—inspection, manipulation, analysis—largely has to be done by the customer, as that is where the expertise needed to innovate within the business lies,” says Renner. “ALLOY recognizes this by enabling meaningful data manipulation by the customer—in a self-service capacity.”
According to Renner, by combining integration and data management into a unified, data-centric solution, C-level executives can build an environment that allows them to get out in front of one-off integrations—an environment in which they can quickly and efficiently plug in new applications, blend data, and proactively address security and compliance requirements. This has been a common theme throughout Liaison's 16-year history—finding innovative ways to address ever-changing integration and data management challenges.
The Shift to Data-Centric Integration
As cloud increases its foothold as the preferred delivery method for technology, the lines of distinction among historically fragmented patterns of integration are blurring.
ALLOY is a next generation data-centric cloud platform for solving today's— and tomorrow's— integration and data management challenges
The use of distributed data centers, cloud platforms, and cloud applications have overrun the notion that application integration happens exclusively behind the firewall. “As we begin to see a broader articulation of integration replace and supersede point software solutions, there is tremendous opportunity for the organization to shift from an application-centric—and developer-centric—strategy to a data-centric strategy,” says Renner.
Renner asserts that the fragmentation of the integration layer among A2A, B2B, ESB, MFT, and even API management tools has long favored and played into an application-centric—and developer-centric—integration model. Developers acquire specialized knowledge and become invaluable assets; as a result, C-level executives find themselves in a perpetual mode of developer appeasement across a wide variety of expertise silos, beholden to the needs of those building the integrations—and the many varied integration tools as well. “Unfortunately, at the end of the day, organizations are left with a very fragmented environment from which to deliver data to the business and integrate with ecosystem partners,” assesses Renner.
With integration collapsing into a single ubiquitous layer and platforms like ALLOY providing this layer as fully managed services, Renner believes that CIOs will be afforded some breathing room to make the fundamental changes to their organization's integration and data management operations that necessarily put the needs of data— not developers or their toolkits— first. “In order to shift to a data-centric strategy, the CIO or IT executive in charge must focus IT on driving business innovation, rather than just optimization,” emphasizes Renner.
ALLOY: Built for Flexibility
The Liaison ALLOYTM Platform is built upon microservices, an architecture design pattern that breaks complex applications into small, independent, and focused processes. These microservices are loosely coupled into three functional layers that work together to provide varying degrees of solution complexity and mass customization. ALLOY's integration layer is provided as fully managed services and is charged with the transformation and transmission of data across any business process. Its data management layer functions as a data lake, and supports writing, reading, and manipulation of data through APIs.
“The power of Liaison's platform is that it was built to be use case and industry agnostic,” says Renner. “It is being used to solve a wide array of integration and data management problems, including the ones businesses know about today and the ones that have not yet surfaced.” One of Renner’s favorite examples to illustrate this flexibility is an analytics use case in which Liaison blends clinical data and social media data on behalf of a large pharmaceutical organization so that it can continuously analyze sentiment for its drug portfolio. As a result, the customer is able to identify the regions in which its products resonate well and accordingly target marketing, sales, and development efforts.
"A peek inside our platform will show that it is being used to solve a wide array of integration and data management problems"
Liaison has climbed to new heights with its ability to reinvent, and, at the same time, enhance organizational productivity. It owes a large part of its success to a supportive investment community and board of directors, several of whom are also the largest users of the platform. “Our unique corporate structure is a huge advantage and key differentiator,” explains Renner. “We're able to invest in new technology to a degree that most of our competitors can't, and ALLOY is a perfect example of that.”
As Renner sees it, legacy firms have stakeholder commitments—embedded software customer bases, private equity interests, or public shareholders—that are at odds with the huge investment in time and money a technology refresh requires. And startups, while more nimble, have a different set of problems: no customers and no experience delivering solutions at scale. “Liaison has figured out a way to provide the best of both worlds,” asserts Renner. “Our starting point is not as a software vendor, so we don’t have to reinvent our core business to bring our technology platform to market.”
Liaison's hybrid culture of innovation and steady state delivery is reflected in the makeup of the team that conceived and, now, oversees ALLOY. Outside, fresh talent was brought in to work alongside seasoned insiders to marry fundamentally new knowledge with deep historic knowledge—an environment Renner thinks is critical to future success. “We've put an inordinate amount of effort into making our vision of ALLOY a reality,” says Renner. “Now, in the face of a dynamic market and confusing software vendor messaging, it's time to stay the course, focus on maintaining the innovation that got us here, and show the rest of the world what ALLOY can do.”