Ram Gupta, the former executive vice president of strategy at PeopleSoft Inc.—the worlds second-largest application developer before it was acquired last year—is taking on integration.
Cast Iron Systems Inc., which develops an integration appliance, announced Tuesday that Gupta is the companys new president and CEO.
Former CEO Fred Meyer will retain a position on the companys board of directors.
Gupta will pick up the mantel where Meyer left off, evangelizing the relative ease of implementing Cast Irons integration appliance. Implementation can take a matter of weeks versus months when compared to a major middleware platform, according to some customers.
But despite accounts of Cast Irons relative ease of use, the company has hurdles to face, not the least of which is big competition from unsuspected places. Business application providers such as Oracle Corp. and SAP AG are building out major middleware platforms that may appeal broadly to their substantial installed customer base. At the same time, Cast Iron has to fend off the notion that appliances are good only for lightweight integrations such as database integrations or flat file transfers.
Guptas not deterred. His goal: to make integration a commodity.
"When I was at PeopleSoft, we had 17,000 customers. I spoke with a number of CIOs. I used to ask them, Whats your number one challenge? Bar none, it was integration," Gupta said from Cast Irons Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. "Why is this so hard? Primarily because the solutions that have existed so far mostly involve programming, APIs and consulting. When I met with Cast Iron I found a company thats made a product out of integration that has no code, no API."
A five-year-old company with about 40 customers, Cast Irons namesake Application Router provides an appliance that connects, transforms and routes data and events from one system to another.
Beyond the individual router, the Meyers vision, and now Guptas, is to build out an Application Network to provide transaction visibility.
"The real vision of the company is not just a box that sits between other boxes," said Meyer in an April 2005 interview. "The real vision is to build a complete network that lies on top of an existing IP network and allows people to see business-level objects. In the network, everything is still in Morse code. What we can do with the router is see actual business transactions in the network and see whats wrong with them."
Gupta plans to follow Meyers lead but take the plan to the next step by creating appliances that perform specific functions.
"If you look at appliances, like network appliances, they do one thing well—security or faster authentication," said Gupta. "What I would like to do is have a portfolio of appliances that do these things."
The company will focus on three key areas: on-demand scenarios (integration is still a necessity); the midmarket, particularly in the case of mergers and acquisitions; and consumers.
"Amazon.com has a $3 billion merchandizing business that comes from small merchants," Gupta said. "All that catalog stuff that has to move is pretty manual and pretty unsophisticated, so the opportunities could be very big."