nections 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
“With Liaison, all types of data integration flow through the same
service-oriented infrastructure, all [data] payloads are defined as ser-
vices, all interactions are managed via Web services, and all integra-
tions 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 reg-
istry — all of the components of a service-oriented infrastructure.
It’s a foundation on which we build our own unique integrations.”
thousands of integrations it has already built, Lheureux says. Com-
peting vendors are starting to move in that direction as well.
Mohawk’s SOA Model
B2B integration traditionally has used a messaging approach to synchronize data, but Mohawk uses a services-based model. Integration workloads are managed by two Web services: One at Mohawk
and one at Liaison.
Because Mohawk’s IT organization has been
abstracted away from the technical aspects of
creating and maintaining all the different types
of connections, Stamas says his group can
focus on working with the business to develop
new business models and connections with
new business partners.
Tony Hunter’s job is to pursue those business
models. As Mohawk’s IT manager and business
process architect, he helps to identify opportunities for the business and presents Liaison with
the specifications. Right now, for example, he’s
working on connecting Mohawk’s e-commerce
website to a cloud-based service that provides
real-time information on freight costs. Mohawk
currently offers UPS and FedEx options on its
website, but those aren’t the best-priced services
for some customers. For instance, “less than
truckload” (LTL) freight tends to be less expensive than UPS or FedEx for orders over 150 lbs.
“We are losing order opportunities because of [not offering]
a freight cost,” says Steve Giangiordano, Mohawk’s manager of
accounting services. So Hunter created a specification for a Web
service that pulls LTL freight charges from Mercurygate’s cloud-
based freight brokerage service and presents the data in the cus-
tomer’s order on Mohawk’s website. “They hit a function key and
they know right away what the LTL rate is. It’s amazing,” Hunter
says. “Once we have that in place, the problem will go away.”
Mercurygate is a CSB like Liaison, but it provides freight data
in the cloud, and on demand, rather than integration services.
Using a CSB has also improved security, Stamas says, because
everything flows through a single point by way of a VPN connection. “Inside the cloud, they have all of the data security precautions you’d expect from a PCI standards-compliant data center,” he
says, adding that Liaison supports the AS2 communications standard, as required by Mohawk’s bank. “Going through a single point
gives you an extraordinary benefit in securing transactions. The
alternative is anarchy — people doing this through Web browsers,
coming in through Port 80 and poking holes in your firewalls.”
» A cloud-based SOA was the
answer to B2B integration hassles at Mohawk Fine Papers,
says VP of IT Paul Stamas.
The Rise of the Cloud Broker
Liaison is on the leading edge of an industrywide trend in which
traditional providers of managed B2B services are becoming what
Gartner analyst Benoit Lheureux calls a cloud services brokers, or
CSBs. In addition to offering data integration and customization
services, CSBs provide an aggregation point for all types of business partner interactions.
The differentiator for Liaison is that it has the in-house expertise
necessary to perform integrations quickly, and it can draw upon