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AiThority Interview with Ben Thrift, Director of Engineering at Dell Boomi

AiThority Interview with Ben Thrift, Director of Engineering at Dell Boomi
Tell us about your interaction with intelligent technologies that you work with?

It’s hard to think of a modern technology that doesn’t have some level of intelligence these days.  Intelligent, data-driven solutions have become an integral part of our daily lives.  I think navigational apps are great examples of intelligent technologies that improve a real-life struggle: getting to work on time.  These apps collect and analyze data from a variety of different sources and endpoints:   traffic maps, GPS, user-submitted notifications, car speed, and the flow of traffic inferred from cell tower handoffs.  All of this data is consumed, integrated, and analyzed to tell me the best way to get to work and at what time I will arrive.  These apps modify their engagement with me depending on how and when I ask for this information.  For example, I can get a text notification on my phone when the app determines it’s the best time to leave to arrive at the office in a particular window.  Once I am in the car and moving, the app changes this engagement to voice commands.  I likely wouldn’t get where I am going if I still had to read text messages in the car.  This type of intelligent analysis and dynamic engagement is demanded by the consumer world, and I believe will become equally expected from business and enterprise solutions as well.

What is the biggest challenge in modernizing Legacy Systems?

I think legacy systems are particularly challenged if they have not invested in open frameworks, DevOps and an automated delivery pipeline.  Legacy systems are often taxed by decisions made in the past that now in a modern context create technical debt that can slow the advancement of that system.  For example, legacy systems were often forced to build proprietary frameworks that today can be consumed as a commodity from a pay for a service provider.  Swapping foundational frameworks can be next to impossible without adequate automation that can guarantee the system doesn’t change with the new modern service.  If not able to adopt modern change, legacy systems are forced to continue on slow treadmills while their competition sprints past.

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Why are enterprises laying a huge impetus on moving to the Cloud?

In one word: modernization.  The cloud helps enterprises move faster and cut costs by eliminating old, brittle technology and build a modern IT foundation.  The cloud empowers enterprises to quickly provision new technology and more rapidly adopt change.  But most importantly, the cloud enables enterprises to stay focused on their core business value instead of firefighting production issues.  If your IT foundation isn’t working for you, then it is likely working against you.  A modern IT foundation is critical for enterprises to remain competitive in the digitized market.

What today is the biggest threat to Enterprise Data?

In the last few years, the protection of personal information has been considered to be a fundamental right, and governments around the world are creating regulation accordingly.  While perhaps not a “threat”, global data governance and privacy laws will present the enterprise with new challenges to ensure these laws and regulations are met.  Consider the difficulty of that with the exponential growth of data produced and consumed by the enterprise and the presence of that data literally everywhere.  It will become increasingly critical for enterprises to invest in data governance solutions and analytics to understand their risk exposure to data sovereignty and address issues accordingly.

With hundreds of parallel but crucial components, how easily are enterprises integrating their systems?

A digital transformation can be a difficult and expensive journey for enterprises if they take it by themselves.  Yes, you can write code easily to connect to a handful of APIs between two cloud applications.  But then you realize you need more functionality between those applications and so you write more code.  Then you are asked to integrate more applications to further connect your business.  Those APIs mature and so you are forced to mature your code in parallel.  Your business now needs to qualify that data and determine which record in multiple applications should be considered the single source of truth and so you build governance solutions on top of that connectivity.  You need to exchange those records with other businesses and create and mediate new APIs requiring more proprietary solutions.  And of course, data is only interesting if you use it to create business value, and so you must build business applications and workflows that connect that data with actual people.  With a modern iPaaS solution like Boomi, there is no need to take the time and expense to build and maintain all this proprietary code.  Choosing a low-code, easy to use the platform as the core of a digital transformation can provide a significant ROI for the enterprise and enable staff to stay focused on their unique business value.

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What industries can leverage from Dell Boomi’s iPaaS?

That’s easy – all industries!  Dell Boomi grew up serving small to medium size businesses who wanted to leverage best in breed cloud applications for their business.  They needed a way to share data between these applications and leveraged Dell Boomi’s cloud-native iPaaS to integrate them in real-time.  More recently, the enterprise push into the cloud has created new requirements and opportunities for the iPaaS market.  They want to leverage a platform like Boomi to speed their digital transformation and rapidly achieve business outcomes.  They want to start saying “yes” instead of “no” to their customers’ problems.  We see this happening in all industries, including Manufacturing, Retail, Education, Healthcare, B2B, and Finance.  With Dell Boomi’s iPaaS, these industries can more easily adopt their own modernization strategy and achieve their digital transformation.

Can you discuss an interesting use case when Dell Boomi’s innovation benefitted an enterprise?

I’m unable to share their name, but not long ago Dell Boomi was approached by a Continuous Glucose Monitor (GCM) vendor who was suffering in part with their own success.  They sold so many of their units so quickly that their customer support organization could not scale fast enough to handle the demand from increased sales.  They desired a solution that would increase the efficiency of their support group and increase customer satisfaction.  To accomplish this, they used Boomi as part of a larger solution to feed customer information and data captured from that customer’s device into a support ticket at the time a support call is made.  Now their customer support team has a 360-degree view of the customer and their device in real time, leading to more personal interactions and quicker resolution of issues.  The next step for them is to build intelligence on top of this solution and supply the support representative with the top three reasons a customer might be calling for help before they even answer the call.

What is the Dell Boomi Atom?

To build modern, data-driven solutions you need a solution that can connect to data and engage with users in all layers where data is stored and consumed – from on-premise and cloud data centers in the Core, to offices and gateways at the Edge, or to individual device Endpoints., That’s where the patented Dell Boomi Atom comes in.  It is a lightweight runtime container, deployable on any system or device in the Core, at the Edge, or in an infinite number of Endpoints.  The Dell Boomi Atom enables not only data connectivity in and across each of these layers but also business and user engagement to accelerate the achievement of business outcomes.

Which events and webinars would you suggest to our readers as being the best in grasping information on emerging technologies?

There are several GSI and vendor conferences that do a good job to highlight emerging technologies and relevant case studies. Given their presence in the market, AWS re:Invent is a good one as they touch nearly every industry.  Being a local Philadelphian, I will highlight the Philly Emerging Tech conference as an independent recommendation.  They bring in diverse speakers from a variety of backgrounds, levels, and industries, who discuss how emerging technologies, including GraphQL, Blockchain, and Neural Networks are shaping our lives and businesses.  At the end of the day, I think the biggest gain from any event is the opportunity to network with other engineers and IT leaders and learn what new technologies are on their and their customer’s radar and what they are doing about it.

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Where do you see AI/Machine learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025? 

A recent report by the International Data Corporation and Seagate noted that by 2025 the sum of all of the data in the world will grow to 175 zettabytes – that is 175 trillion gigabytes of data!  The report also states that the primary producers of this data will shift from consumers to the enterprise, and a growing percentage of that data will be created in real-time.  As such, we should expect to see increasing demand in real-time, intelligent interaction from enterprise customers as we do in the consumer world.  The enterprise must be prepared to give business users access to intelligent data on demand, on any connection, and on any device or risk being left behind.

What start-ups are you keenly following?

digitalAngel is a Dutch startup that is building an open IoT platform that integrates data from any smart health device, creating business outcomes that improve the quality of life of people.  They use Boomi as part of a larger solution to collect, analyze, and act upon data streamed from sensors in smart mattresses used in senior citizen centers.  The outcome they achieve with this is a rapid response to potential health events, such as a patient falling out of bed or if a patient needs periodic help changing sleeping positions.  This leads to more efficient business processes for staff members, but more importantly better quality of care for patients.  I think this type of real-time, data-driven innovation, particularly with the goal to improve the lives of people is amazing.  As healthcare continues to mature its adoption of smart devices and IoT, I think we will continue to see new levels of innovation from companies like digitalAngel that improve all of our lives.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

I would love to fast forward 10 years and read the answers to these questions by almost anyone in the industry.  Right now is such an exciting time for smart devices, artificial intelligence, and data-driven innovation.  We are just scratching the surface of what our future selves will create.  I’m anxiously awaiting where these concepts take our industry over the next few years and what humankind will be able to achieve with them.

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Thank you, Ben! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Ben Thrift, Director of Engineering, Dell Boomi is responsible for the overall development and hosting of the Dell Boomi product line. Ben has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry, operating in a variety of roles including software developer, architect, director of software and operations, and executive leadership. He has worked across multiple industries and company sizes ranging from startup to enterprise.

Previously Ben spent nearly 10 years with EMC prior to the Dell merger. In his roles as principal engineer and software director at EMC, Ben co-authored several US patents supporting large scale software architectures and the management of distributed systems.

Ben has a passion for lean software development practices and methodologies. An advocate for concepts such as Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, Ben has a track record of successfully applying both at scale in small and large development organizations.

boomi logo

Boomi was founded in 2000, beginning with “configuration-based” integration. Boomi introduced Technology which allows users to build and deploy integration processes using a visual interface and a drag and drop technique. This interface remains one of the key elements of the current Boomi platform.

In 2007 Boomi released the technology now known as “AtomSphere,” the industry’s first Integration Cloud. AtomSphere kept the visual, point and click interface for building integrations and can be managed through a simple browser-based UI.

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