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Integration in the Cloud

Robert L. Mitchell | March 13, 2012
Mohawk Fine Papers says it has saved millions by leveraging a cloud service broker's service-oriented architecture and using it as a central integration point for all of its B2B transactions.

Just two weeks after Mohawk Fine Papers made the decision to sell its products on Amazon.com, things were looking good for the company: Integration work was complete, connections to its ERP system had lit up and sales were rolling in. "Amazon generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue immediately," says Paul Stamas, vice president of IT at the $300 million, 725-employee manufacturer of premium papers.

Best of all, the data integration project, which cost less than $1,000 to get off the ground, required no in-house investment in integration tools or staff resources.

Instead, cloud-services provider Liaison Technologies performed the integration work and then set up -- and currently manages -- the connections through its cloud-based service.

Two years ago, a project like this would have been handled as just another point-to-point EDI integration. But the Amazon deal and the 100-plus other business-to-business connections that Mohawk has set up through Liaison over the past 18 months represent the culmination of Stamas' vision to create what he calls a "service-oriented architecture in the cloud."

The model has allowed Mohawk to quickly and inexpensively set up new business relationships without worrying about the technical details, thereby 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, the services that Liaison provides have moved beyond straightforward provisioning and management of B2B data mapping and EDI connections. Liaison now handles all connections, whether they're between on-premises applications, from on-site systems to the 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 inserts freight costs into each customer order on Mohawk's website by way of cloud-based transportation logistics service broker Mercurygate. And a Web service created by Liaison checks Mohawk's websites and its ERP system to ensure that items are in stock and relays availability information to customers before they place their orders.

"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.

 

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