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Mohawk Fine Papers builds integration-in-the-cloud

Robert L. Mitchell | Nov. 30, 2011
Just two weeks after Mohawk Fine Papers made the decision to sell its products on Amazon.com, integration work was complete, connections to its ERP system lit up and sales started rolling in. "Amazon generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue immediately," says Paul Stamas, vice president of IT at the $83 million, 725-employee manufacturer of premium papers.

"It's not about technology," Stamas says "It's about building business processes in the cloud. That's what we're focusing on."

The model has allowed Mohawk to quickly and inexpensively set up new business relationships without worrying about the technical details, producing new revenue opportunities and millions of dollars in cost savings.

"SOA was the answer because it works based on the concept of loosely coupled services, and geography doesn't matter," Stamas says. He briefly considered building an SOA in house, but "my head was spinning at the costs and complexity," he says.

So early in 2010 he began working with Liaison on his idea. Since then, Mohawk's relationship with the company has gradually morphed from the straightforward provisioning and management of B2B data mapping and EDI connections. Liaison now handles all connections, whether they're between on-premises applications, on-premises-to-cloud or cloud-to-cloud.

Recent projects include a process by which another cloud service provider, StrikeIron, provides up-to-date currency exchange rates to Mohawk's on-premises ERP system at the time of invoice for international orders; another that inserts freight costs into each customer order on Mohawk's website by way of transportation logistics cloud service broker Mercurygate; and a Web service created by Liaison that performs an "in stock" check between Mohawk's Web sites and its ERP system and relays availability information to customers before they place an order for any given item.

"We have over 30,000 of these checks a month and they happen in real-time, synchronously, in two to three seconds," Stamas says.

Liaison serves as the intermediary for every type of transaction, performing the necessary integration and data management work with Mohawk's customers, suppliers and other business partners. The vendor also presents the connections as services for Mohawk to use as it wants, and offers a business activity-monitoring tool that keeps tabs on service levels from end-to-end.

"With Liaison, all types of data integration flow through the same service-oriented infrastructure, all [data] payloads are defined as services, all interactions are managed via web services, and all integrations use a publish-or-subscribe model" in which services are either provided or consumed, Stamas explains.

"They have the tools and platforms, the enterprise service bus, messaging bus and service registry -- all of the components of a service-oriented infrastructure. It's a foundation on which we build our own unique integrations," Stamas says.

The rise of the cloud services broker

Liaison's business model is on the leading edge of an industry transition from traditional managed B2B services to what Gartner Inc. analyst Benoit Lheureux calls a cloud services broker. CSBs provide an aggregation point for all types of business partner interactions, as well as offering data integration and customization services.

 

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