Newcomer Cloud Elements Virtualizes API Integration

PRODUCT ANALYSIS: Cloud Elements 3.0 enables APIs to work in uniform ways across hundreds of applications while sharing common data models.

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Pretty much everything in IT is able to be virtualized these days, including all types of hardware, software and even services. But you don’t often hear about virtualizing APIs (application programming interfaces), largely because that’s pretty complicated to do.

Nonetheless, Cloud Elements, a relative newcomer in the business but already an expert in API integration, on May 16 announced the latest version of its platform with new features that virtualize API integration to make it more agile and easier to handle.

The idea is to make it easier for software and service teams to proactively build, manage and scale digital ecosystems that accelerate product adoption and improve customer experience.

The new platform solves two big challenges for today’s development teams:

  • reducing the pain, cost and complexity of integration, which sucks up developer time (and simply sucks), distracting from product innovation;
  • and increasing market opportunity by enabling customers to quickly adopt new software that works with their existing applications, while enabling collaboration across their extended ecosystem of customers, prospects, partners and supply chains.

“While there are a lot of integration options out there, we’re very API-centric,” Cloud Elements Chief Product Officer Ross Garrett told eWEEK. “I talk to a lot of customers and prospective customers out on the front lines of API integration. I hear some version of this problem over and over and over again; after all, the sheer numbers are staggering. The average enterprise uses more than 1,500 cloud applications and services. And whether you are a SaaS player creating those apps or an enterprise trying to make sense of them, that’s a problem that gets exponentially harder with each new slew of product releases.

“We get it. And we’re begging you to stop beating yourselves up. Let us help.”

Cloud Elements is primarily a cloud service, but there are delivery options for hybrid infrastructure in which the application can bridge cloud and on-premises installations, Garrett said. 

Here's How It Works

Cloud Elements 3.0 enables APIs to work in uniform ways across hundreds of applications while sharing common data models. Instead of requiring developers to build point-to-point connections using inconsistent APIs, Cloud Elements starts by unifying APIs with enhanced capabilities for authentication, discovery, search, error handling and API maintenance.

These “elements” can then be combined into workflows (aka Formulas) that automate business processes across applications. Elements and Formulas can be easily modified, shared and re-used, significantly improving developer productivity. Elements also shield developers from underlying API changes, significantly reducing maintenance costs.

Cloud Elements 3.0 adds a powerful new capability called Virtual Data Hubs, which puts a company’s data model at the center of their ecosystem. Virtual Data Hubs provide a normalized view of data objects, like “accounts” or “orders” or “payments,” allowing companies to manage data they care about in the structure that is optimized for their application or business. This provides software teams with more control over user experience, eliminating the need for point-to-point mapping of data to each and every new application.

For example, developers can use or modify templates for “leads” that work seamlessly across multiple CRM systems, rather than having to create a new connection for each individual platform.

Cloud Elements 3.0 also includes a new visual integration feature, called Conductor, that allows customer success and professional services teams to build and manage workflow without code. These “ad hoc integrators” can now easily customize integrations and build workflows that meet specific customer needs. Conductor features an intuitive visual interface for all skill levels, without sacrificing on power and capability.

Build, Manage and Scale Digital Ecosystems

Enterprise IT leaders have identified integration as a critical barrier to digital transformation – stalling progress for 84 percent of organizations, according to MuleSoft’s latest survey. Other reports show the average enterprise uses more than 1,500 cloud applications and services, many of which are operating in silos. Meanwhile, software vendors increasingly realize the importance of building integrations with partner companies, and venture capitalists advocate that software companies should shift their thinking from “products” to “platforms.”

To address these needs, Cloud Elements believes enterprises and software providers need to move beyond point-to-point application integration, which can’t effectively scale to address the challenge. Instead, they should build dynamic digital ecosystems where data and processes flow seamlessly across dozens to hundreds of applications.

This requires unified APIs and data models, a one-to-many technology architecture, and shared focus on integration by software providers and enterprise IT departments. Cloud Elements 3.0 delivers the technology to realize this vision.

Pre-Built Integrations for 200+ Applications

Cloud Elements 3.0 includes more than 200 pre-built integrations for a broad array of cloud applications and services, including ERP, CRM, human capital, finance, e-commerce, field service, payments, marketing, messaging, database, storage, and social applications. The latest platform includes new Elements for popular cloud-based ERP (Workday, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics) and HCM applications (Workday, Oracle, Ultimate Software, Kronos, ADP Payroll).

Cloud Elements also launched a developer community that allows developers to share Elements and Formulas via a public GitHub repository.

Cloud Elements’ customer base includes large software platform companies like SAP, IBM and Axway; independent software vendors like DoubleDutch, FinancialForce, Microstrategy and Sage; financial technology providers such as Danske Bank, FIS, PaySimple and Western Union; and digital business units of large enterprises like Dun & Bradstreet and Xerox.

More information can be found here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...