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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Transforming the “Internet of Things” with Chris McNabb, Dell Boomi

January 13, 2014 No Comments

In this interview, Chris McNabb from DELL Boomi emphasizes the value of integration within the cloud movement, and offers expert advice for organizations looking to overcome security and compliance issues arising around the proliferation of cloud computing and mobile applications.

  • Q. How do you see cloud computing, social media, and mobile transforming the “internet of things”?

A. These initiatives are all directed at delivering much better services at both the enterprise and consumer levels. The cloud essentially performs a “middleware” function, making possible a more personalized and customized offering based on enabling any service or device to talk to any other service or device. This is what makes the Internet of Things possible because it’s no longer just about the applications you can talk to. It’s now also possible to make devices a part of a service offering.

For example, consider proximity services. You’re driving home after work, and when your phone detects you’re five miles away, it automatically communicates with your thermostat and increases the setting from the cool setting you use during the day when no one is home to the comfortable setting you want to have when you walk through the door. Or consider the often cited smart refrigerator that can track the number of your favorite beverages that you have stocked, so that if you enter a grocery store and the number of beverages in your refrigerator is below a set amount, your mobile phone can remind you to buy more. This reminder system can even track a new brand you liked on Facebook and alert you of deals on that brand while you’re in the store.

This kind of personalized service is possible only when you have all three technologies—cloud, mobile, and social—working together in an integrated way. This has the potential to completely change the way in which services are provided not just to the consumers but also across organizations.

  • Q. In your opinion, how integral is application integration to this movement?

A. Integration is a critical enabling technology. You simply can’t connect applications and their associated data between, say, your thermostat, your mobile phone, and your car without an application integration platform. And this is where, from a technology standpoint, so many Internet of Things use cases are driving the industry toward integration platform as a service, or iPaaS. iPaaS creates a single place where applications are mapped to one another, whether it’s your thermostat, your finance application, or your CRM system. It’s only through iPaaS that you can aggregate data from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to gain insight from social streams and profile updates. In the end, integration in the cloud is the only way to provide the kind of federated access to all the various endpoints, no matter where they are: a thermostat in your home, a router behind the firewall, a distributed business application.

  • Q. What security and compliance issues do you see arising around the proliferation of cloud computing and mobile apps?

A. Once people realize they need a cloud-based application integration solution to improve data access and connect all the applications supporting various endpoints, security is the very next issue on the list. An iPaaS solution must meet the security requirements of every supplier and consumer, and it must be compliant with whatever regulations exist in whatever jurisdictions it operates. The platform must also be sufficiently agile to keep up with regulatory changes as they occur, including best practices that may emerge from groups like the Cloud Security Alliance. The Dell Boomi platform is compliant with regulations in North America and the EU for data privacy related to healthcare and financial services. Clearly, if the platform is secure enough for the largest banks and medical providers in the world, then it’s likely secure enough to meet the needs of applications designed for individual consumers.

  • Q. What solutions is Dell Boomi currently offering to overcome these issues?

A. Dell Boomi offers secure application integration for cloud and on-premises systems. Our AtomSphere® iPaaS makes it far easier and faster for developers to create integrations with multiple source systems, and with our patented Dell Boomi Atom technology, it can do so without ever transporting a customer’s data in the cloud, exposing it to unnecessary risk. Using Dell Boomi AtomSphere provides access to an ever-growing network of interoperable SaaS, PaaS, cloud, and on-premises applications, and the technology uses crowd sourced Boomi Suggest™ to suggest common data mappings to help speed the process of mapping applications. By simplifying cloud application integration, Dell Boomi can help organizations accelerate their IoT initiatives while speeding time to value and reducing the risks associated with building new integration models from the ground up.

To provide a couple of examples, with Dell Boomi, Novatis, the pharmaceutical company, was able to dramatically increase the number of integration processes it was able to develop and shorten the time to value for its projects. And GoPro, the rapidly growing manufacturer of activity-based cameras, is using Dell Boomi to put its finance, customer relationship, and supply chain management systems in the cloud to ensure that operations can keep pace with its incredible sales growth. Dell Boomi was the only way this company could sew all of these systems together and scale the operational side of the business without buying more hardware and hiring more staff to manage it.

  • Q. Dell Boomi has recently won several rewards for excellence in the Cloud computing space. Can you please tell us a little about the UP2013 Awards and what this means for Dell Boomi as a company?

A. We are big supporters of the UP Cloud Computing Conference, which provided us with great insights and new connections to the disruptive influencers in this space. This year we competed and won in the Best Cloud Middleware category and Best Cloud Partner Program category.

These awards are very meaningful because they are customer and social driven. Users cast their votes. And while we can help to drum up votes early on in the process, it’s only people at the conference—customers, really—who have the final say. And getting that kind of customer-driven support, loyalty and recognition is really important to us because we are first and foremost a customer solution. We’re all about our customers’ success, and because we’re an “as a service” provider with a monthly subscription revenue model, we need to keep earning our customers’ loyalty every month. So having them say with their votes that we’re doing an exceptional job is very gratifying for us.

  • Q. What major trends do you foresee emerging within cloud, social media, and mobile over the next five years?

A. There’s a lot of discussion around the integration of these three spaces, and it’s in the area of personalized services where we really start to see the capabilities and real potential of this integration. But another important trend is on the information management and big data side of all this. As integration provides greater access to social, mobile, and other forms of enterprise and public data, organizations are able to gain insights at a far more detailed level about their customers, employees, and services—what’s working and not working, how are things changing, and where are the new opportunities. This will continue to lead to much better customer service and greater customer success. Many organizations are still just getting started with this, still trying to get their heads around the potential impacts, but they are making huge investments in big data so they can gain the insight they need to make their customers successful and create more meaningful relationships with them.

From a cloud perspective, it’s important to recognize that the cloud has really gone mainstream. It’s no longer about waiting to see how this “cloud trend” is going to pan out. It’s here. Businesses get it. Consumers get it. As we get into certain verticals, such as healthcare, we see a tremendous opportunity. Healthcare providers, especially in the U.S., are seeing a significant regulatory push to be more transparent and communicate with other healthcare providers, doctors’ offices, and insurance companies. The cloud, as enabled by iPaaS, is fundamentally a disruptive technology that healthcare providers can use to meet these demanding new regulatory requirements in a way that simply wasn’t possible a year or two ago.

In fact, today, any company of any size that’s facing an application integration project has to look at an iPaaS solution first. Some people think that because they’ve invested $2 million in their legacy integration platform, they have to keep expanding it or modernizing it for the cloud. That’s a mistake. The fact that iPaaS can connect anything anywhere any time at a lower cost than any existing legacy platform means that iPaaS needs to be an important part of the decision. What Dell Boomi can do for organizations is categorically different than what was previously possible, whether customers are looking for cost savings, productivity gains, or broader access to a much wider range of endpoints. The Dell Boomi AtomSphere platform is processing over 400 million integrations per month. That’s a huge number and we’re still growing rapidly. This might be the clearest indication of where the market is going.


Chris McNabb

General Manager, Dell Boomi

Chris is the General Manager of Dell Boomi where he is responsible for all operations and strategic direction. Chris brings over 20 years of software development and line of business experience from a diverse set of prior roles that include software development, professional services, LOB leader and consulting. In his role at Dell Boomi, Chris is constantly engaged with customers and partners to ensure alignment between business needs and Dell Boomi’s strategy and operations.

Chris joined the Dell Boomi team in 2011 following a 12 year career with SunGard Higher Education. In his prior roles, Chris was SVP of worldwide software development and had responsibility for all software execution, delivery and quality to over 1600 customers. Chris spent two years as a management consultant at a subsidiary of Pennsylvania Blue Shield advising on project management and quality assurance initiatives to improve development execution. Chris started his career in software development in the financial services sector holding various engineering and management roles.

Chris attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (MIS) and Villanova (Business).

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