Back in the early 1990s, with a $75,000 grant from the National Institute of Health, Gaurav Dhillon literally started Informatica in his garage. During his 12-year tenure as CEO, he built Informatica into a public company that stands as one of the leading EAI (enterprise application integration) software vendors.
In Silicon Valley, this type of success tends to breed a hunger for more. Dhillion invested in several startups, but in his area of specialization, integration, he felt there was little new under the sun. That changed in the mid-2000s when he happened to serve on a board with Marc Andreessen, who talked at length about the way people were using the cloud for their work lives. A light came on and Dhillon asked: "Gosh, how are we going to connect that? How does that work?"
[ Also see "How to integrate with the cloud" by InfoWorld's David Linthicum. | Read "Cloud computing's missing link" for more on public cloud integration provider Boomi, acquired late last year by Dell. ]
So in 2006, Dhillon invested in and helped build SnapLogic, a startup that delivers a cloud-based version of EAI. In 2009, Dhillion stepped in to become SnapLogic's CEO.
Cloud application integration may not be the sexiest topic, but for enterprises in particular, it's one of the gating factors in cloud computing adoption. Without it, when companies adopt SaaS applications, for example, they simply move information silos outside the firewall and create old problems anew. We began the interview zeroing in on exactly how SnapLogic was intended to solve the cloud integration problem.
Eric Knorr: When you helped start SnapLogic, what was your unique value proposition? Why did you think new technology would be required?
Gaurav Dhillon: We felt the solution should in itself be cloudy. It should be able to scale up to much more data -- big data, if you will. Also, the new solution should be able to scale out to hundreds of potential applications, not just "n," which is what we had in the client/server era.
We have a cloud solution that has a visual way of expressing the flow of information amongst various cloud or on-premise applications. We call them pipelines. They're really visual representations of Unix pipes, but they're designed for business users -- easy to use. If you can use Visio you can drag and drop the stuff around. That may be connecting your financial system (say, on-premise SAP) to your cloud CRM system (say, Salesforce).