Accenture's Investment in Liaison Highlights Emergence Of Cloud Brokers

A deal this week in which global consulting and management giant Accenture has made a major investment in Liaison Technologies highlights the expanding role of cloud brokerages in an information market of rapidly increasing velocity, volume and complexity.

Liaison's CEO Bob Renner told CRN that together the two companies can better deliver data integration services to enterprises seeking to bring together vast amounts of information to enable collaborations within their own companies and with business-to-business partners.

The game-changing new partnership will see Accenture take a minority stake in Atlanta-based Liaison. Accenture gets a nonvoting seat on Liaison's board, but beyond that, the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Renner told CRN the deal makes a lot of sense given the ever-evolving and expanding market for cloud services and data exchange.

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"The market today is getting more and more complicated," Renner said. "Accenture excels in consulting and delivering solutions. Liaison's strength is with integration and providing a data management platform. The two together can deliver an integrated data solution."

Gartner recently estimated that by next year, 20 percent of all cloud services will be consumed through cloud service brokerages -- up from less than 5 percent today.

Renner told CRN that exploding demand for such intermediary services is driven by companies facing the need to connect incompatible systems in a way that allows them to securely and robustly exchange, store, harmonize and make available for analysis all kinds of information.

Liaison, a leader in integration and data management, offers these services across many industries, including financial services and telecommunications. The company has a special focus on health care and the life sciences, Renner said, "where the problems are very acute in exchanging information."

The health-care industry has been slow to migrate medical records to online storage and adopt cloud solutions to accessing patient data, but it is now coming around. With institutions now recognizing the benefits of this model in improving patient outcomes, a torrent of information suddenly is in the pipeline, needing to be stored, connected and integrated across the industry.

Such a project will be the first test of the new partnership. Accenture recently announced it is collaborating with several companies to create a package of Predictive Health Intelligence solutions for life sciences companies. Liaison will provide the big data technology platform to integrate, harmonize and securely manage this vast amount of clinical data in the cloud.

Renner told CRN that this type of partnership is "pretty new to the market so it's going to be exciting to see how that unfolds."

He said the business, in general, is significantly more complicated than it was when he launched Liaison at the end of the dot-com boom almost 15 years ago.

"You have more data sources, including social media, and the type of data being exchanged varies greatly, from large data to small transactions," Renner said.

NEXT: Liaison Cloud Broker's Beginnings

Liaison was born when Renner and his partners recognized there was a rush of companies building out their own IT infrastructures, creating large data centers within their own enterprises, and needing to integrate those systems with diverse partners and collaborators.

At that time, legacy companies were offering similar services on their mainframes, but they had too large of an embedded base for them to adapt to the new ways of doing data integration and management, Renner said.

With initial investments in the company of $110 million, Liaison built up a robust data center footprint to allow companies large and small to connect to their service. Liaison's software often acts as a facilitator positioned between data capture tools that are usually themselves cloud-based applications, and data analysis products.

The company also provides a crucial service for enterprises that are running software behind their firewalls, but need to reach beyond those confines to directly communicate and exchange data with partners in their value chain running systems different from their own.

In the years since its inception, Liaison has worked on several projects with Accenture. The two have plenty of experience working together, Renner told CRN.

The cloud broker, already serving thousands of clients, will allow Accenture to begin working with a client with a technical platform already in place and ready to go.

The increasing acceptance of the cloud model, and the mainstream media’s focus on the cloud, has really accelerated the exchange of information and "opened up the floodgates to companies like Liaison,’ Renner said.