By definition, an integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a set of automated tools that integrate software applications that are deployed in different environments. According to TechTarget, large businesses that run enterprise-level systems often use iPaaS to integrate applications and data that live on-premises and in both public and private clouds.
Typically, an iPaaS platform provides pre-built connectors, business rules, maps, and transformations that facilitate the development of apps and orchestrate integration flows. Some iPaaS providers offer custom development kits to modernize legacy apps and add capabilities such as mobile support, integration with social apps, and business data management.
Although it’s possible for IT departments to handle integration themselves, it is sometimes more efficient and economical to take that management obligation away from IT staff and shift it into the hands of a third-party iPaaS provider. In other words, iPaaS is a cloud-based platform that helps organizations integrate their software applications.
iPaaS provides many benefits for companies, including reducing IT costs, speeding up deployment times, and improving data accuracy. By using an iPaaS provider, the company could bring all of that data together into one central location for analysis. That said, keep reading to learn more about the benefits of iPaaS to your business or company.
How iPaaS (Integration Platform As A Service) Works
To enumerate, iPaaS (Integration Platform As A Service) is a type of cloud computing service that enables companies to integrate their applications and data across multiple cloud-based and on-premises systems. So, what can iPaaS do for your business really? iPaaS provides a single platform for managing all these integrations without having to code.
Whilst, making it easier and faster for companies to connect new applications and data sources, as well as update or replace old ones. Typically, an iPaaS provider hosts application servers and infrastructure data, and provisions integration tooling and middleware that help developers build, test, deploy and manage the software that lives in the cloud.
Most iPaaS capabilities and offerings also speed up the development of integration flows across a business by using pre-built connectors and business rules to define interactions in multi-tenant environments. Users can create integrations by dragging and dropping connectors and components without any knowledge of coding.
The platform then takes care of all the necessary complexities. Such as managing the different applications and servers, and ensuring that the integrations are always up and running. Most iPaaS platforms and tools support the same methods to connect various applications, platforms, and systems — although they may not all include the same specific integrations.
In general, common iPaaS capabilities include the following:
- ease of use for platform deployment, data integration, and app management processes;
- the comprehensiveness of integration toolsets and pre-built data connectors;
- level of support for both SaaS and locally hosted applications;
- readiness to support protocols like HTTP, FTP, Open Data Protocol, and Advanced Messaging Queuing Protocol;
- flexibility to build custom connectors and modify access mechanisms;
- ability to process, clean, and transform data in formats like XML and JSON;
- performance when handling large-scale data operations and concurrent executions;
- support for real-time processing and batch data integration;
- monitoring for failures, latency, resource utilization, and workflow performance; and
- security mechanisms for access control, data encryption, and single sign-on integrations.
At its best, iPaaS assembles an organization’s unique needs into a cloud-based toolset, designed to handle the increased data volume associated with cloud environments, mobile device support, and accelerated application development cycles.
In addition to other complex B2B Marketing and related business transactions. Quite often, this includes real-time integration, where the goal is to minimize disruptions caused by application interaction incompatibilities and diverse data formats.
How Integration Platform As A Service Can Help Your Business
Moving on, iPaaS platforms promise significant benefits for complex enterprise environments, of course. But, businesses will realize the best results and more business value when they employ some of the best iPaaS practices, to push the wheel. The main advantage of iPaaS is that it enables users to quickly and easily build integrations between multiple apps.
This can be very useful for organizations that want to consolidate their data or want to automate certain business processes. It may help to think of an iPaaS provider as a contractor who is hired to manage/assist renovate a kitchen. The homeowner picks out the specific appliances, flooring, lighting, or any other custom design choices they want and can afford.
While the contractor takes charge of underlying requirements — such as acquiring materials or coordinating with specialists such as electricians and carpenters. Similarly, the same can be said with the integration platform as a service. Whereby, the vendor handles management and governance of the varied services, while the business pursues and requests support.
Specifically, they’ll seek quality support for custom application features and software functionality. Many iPaaS providers offer an “API-driven” approach to integration that heavily uses API messaging and data sharing to facilitate critical application interactions. However, iPaaS does not replace the systems that organizations should implement.
Especially, when it comes to monitoring, tracking, and caring for the foundational APIs that interconnect their systems and facilitate everyday operations. In fact, most enterprises should use both iPaaS and API management, not one or the other. Chiefly, iPaaS solutions offer a wide range of other notable features and key benefits to all businesses involved.
Such benefits include but are not limited to:
- Faster integration: iPaaS gives businesses the ability to quickly and easily connect different applications and data sources. Consolidating data from multiple sources into one place makes business processes more efficient.
- Seamless integration: Especially, while helping IT teams navigate the expanding integration requirements of a business without adding additional resource drain and management overhead. At the same time, opening access to ecosystems of application development, deployment, and management tools that readily integrate with the iPaaS vendor’s platform.
- Increased mobility and flexibility: Because iPaaS is cloud-based, it can be accessed from any device or location with an internet connection. This gives employees greater flexibility to work from wherever they are most productive.
- Enhanced security: iPaaS solutions offer robust security features that help protect sensitive data from unauthorized access or theft. It also bolsters security by placing security responsibilities on the vendor and providing built-in monitoring, threat detection, and observability tools.
- Reduced costs: By using an iPaaS solution, businesses can avoid the cost and complexity of installing and maintaining their on-premises integration infrastructure as well.
It’s also, important to note, that there is no cost to using iPaaS, but companies should weigh the benefits against the costs of deploying and managing an on-premises integration platform. Clearly, it’s also worth mentioning that iPaaS uses can also apply to a broad range of enterprise integration needs across multiple platforms and data sources.
Note that some iPaaS vendors focused on larger enterprises — such as MuleSoft, IBM, and Boomi — also offer API management as part of their overall software services portfolio.
Other topmost common iPaaS uses are as follows:
- Data integration. Manage data format translations and validate real-time synchronized data, as an alternative to traditional script-driven batch data transfers.
- Multiple cloud integrations. Create, implement and manage complex integrations among public cloud resources and services with those of other clouds, such as SaaS providers, which can involve unique data stores in many different locations and formats.
- Big data integration. Handle multiple complex integrations for business analytics and business intelligence, machine learning, and AI efforts. These typically involve data lakes and cloud data warehouses, analytical and visualization tools, and vast arrays of time-sensitive data that must be processed in high volumes with low latency.
- B2B integration. Handle B2B integrations with diverse third-party partners and providers without the need for a common API or custom integrations, and enable security standards enforcement and audits for B2B data flows.
- Platform integrations. Connect various platforms wherever they live: on-premises, remotely (colocation), or on one or multiple clouds, while enterprises preserve legacy in-house integration schemes.
- IoT device integration. Integrate connections among vast IoT devices (sensors and actuators), tools, and APIs to support data collection, processing, and transmission involving multiple systems and cloud platforms.
- Event stream integration. Use a single platform to handle highly complex interactions involved in events-driven microservices design (also called serverless) involving various storage, computing, and workflows from a single platform.
- Microservices integration. Enable an organization to automatically generate and publish APIs to support microservices, which reduces the need to design and build them in-house.
- Application-to-application integration. Connect applications, systems, or data located on-premises or in the cloud, and automatically implement interfaces and data flows to establish and manage each integration.
Equally important, iPaaS can also simplify an organization’s overall technology infrastructure by creating a virtual platform that connects applications and resources to create a consistent structure. The iPaaS framework seamlessly integrates between cloud and legacy applications as well as other key resources across multiple cloud technologies.
iPaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS vs. ESB vs. API management
To understand how iPaaS compares to other service models, it is best to understand what each does. On one hand, Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to a certain type of cloud-based toolset that enables developers to govern services. PaaS focuses on one portion of a development project, rather than an entire infrastructure.
This approach allows developers to change and upgrade operating systems, yet still, collaborate and not disrupt an entire system. As noted earlier, iPaaS actually combines several platforms and uses the same benefits as PaaS at a broader scale. On the other hand, Software as a Service (SaaS) contracts a third-party provider to host applications over the internet.
And, as a result, this eliminates the need for an organization to use its own data center or computers, which saves money, resources (such as data storage), and time. iPaaS tools can simplify hybrid SaaS deployments and work best with existing legacy systems of medium to low complexity.
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Be that as it may, while the lines have become less blurred over the years, many organizations still debate whether to use iPaaS or an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to handle their integration needs. Most modern ESBs can handle SaaS applications but are best for integration of legacy, on-premises, and primarily internal applications.
Some may find that iPaaS options seem less expensive than ESB counterparts, offer more scalability and lend themselves to B2B integration outside an organization’s own systems. This can be true, but some iPaaS offerings may less effectively support the legacy, process-heavy software systems that underpin the safe management of sensitive company data.
In reality, API management often comes up within the context of iPaaS conversations as well, though it embodies a different set of enterprise software concerns. APIs are a common means to integrate applications through well-documented interfaces — as long as every application shares the same API, which proves elusive.
Choosing An Integration Platform As A Service Vendor Plus Tools
As of today, a majority of iPaaS vendors offer many options to integrate software systems and applications with both public and private clouds at various levels of complexity and cost. Some are focused on large-scale enterprise operational concerns, while others focus on emerging technologies — often pursued by smaller-scale business companies.
More so, organizations that embrace innovative software approaches and deployment techniques. That said, the first group comprises older, existing integration companies that have modified their tools to work with cloud services. Microsoft, Tibco, OpenText, Informatica, SnapLogic, and IBM are a few examples of companies that leverage their experience.
As well as incorporate users’ needs to create integration service platforms. Other longstanding software providers, such as Oracle and SAP, have evolved their own iPaaS to handle end-to-end integrations for their expansive platforms. These vendors often require heavy amounts of software typically provided via long-term service agreements.
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Suffice it to say, many large enterprises find comfort in the relatively rock-solid stability these vendors represent. Forthwith, the second group of iPaaS providers was “born in the cloud age,” and includes Jitterbit, SnapLogic, Boomi, Talend, and MuleSoft. These vendors originally targeted small and midsize organizations taking the leap into cloud and mobile development.
But, these vendors increasingly focus their API-driven integration approaches on large enterprises. These providers may lack those other vendors’ underlying structure and familiar history, but they exhibit a strong focus on innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics. More recently, providers have doubled down on other areas.
Such as their ability to provide support for low-code programming and citizen development. Meanwhile, some newer entrants into the iPaaS market provide products typically best suited for small-scale companies and operations, but with innovative integration methods desirable for enterprise-level businesses.
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For instance, Integrately, Zapier, SyncApps, and Automate.io offer “one-click” and low-code workflow integration, whether that is a one-to-one integration or a more complex collection of software. Other vendors, such as Martini and Tray.io, take an API-centric approach to automate workflow integrations, manual processes, and business rule enforcement.
Many of these newer vendors also offer free open-source versions of their software. Last but not least, the major providers of cloud technology platforms offer various native integration tools for applications, data, and services that tie in other services in that cloud platform’s ecosystem, including third-party services.
These may function as iPaaS even if they are not labeled as such or adhere to a strict definition of iPaaS. Examples include Amazon AppFlow, EventBridge, and AWS Glue; Azure Logic Apps and Data Factory; and Google Cloud’s Data Fusion and Data Flow. Some organizations that invest heavily in cloud usage may also find these services quite very useful.
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Companies that rely on multiple software applications to run their business can benefit from using iPaaS to make those applications work together more seamlessly. For example, with Salesforce for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and QuickBooks for accounting, a company might be able to streamline its operations by using a great iPaaS provider.
Particularly, an iPaaS provider that offers pre-built connectors between those two applications. Another example would be a company that has data stored in different silos across the organization, such as customer data on one server, product data on another server, and financial data on still another server. But, how will you know the right iPaaS service provider?
Well, the best way to determine if an iPaaS provider has the features you need is to review its product offerings. Make sure the provider has capabilities that cover all of your integration needs, such as API Management, data synchronization, process automation, etc. Also, be sure to check that the provider’s platform can integrate with your current systems and apps.
In addition to features, you’ll also want to consider how well the iPaaS provider aligns. Especially, with your overall business goals and your ultimate strategic company plans. And, on that note, there are a few key questions to consider.
For example, you can ask yourself questions like;
- does the provider have experience working with companies in your industry?
- is their pricing model reasonable for your budget?
- and, do they offer the level of customer support you need?
- does your organization primarily need to integrate local and cloud integrations, including SaaS?
- is the goal primarily to establish B2B data exchanges?
- or, is there a need to support more decoupled workloads, such as service-oriented architecture and microservices?
Considering these factors will make it easier to identify an iPaaS provider that will help you achieve integration success. By the same token, when looking for an iPaaS provider, there are a few things to consider: The first is what the provider offers in terms of features and functionality. The second is how well the provider fits with your company’s needs and requirements.
Overall, using an iPaaS platform can improve communication and collaboration between business entities, increase efficiency and productivity, and reduce costs. However, organizations must weigh the benefits of iPaaS against the challenges it can impose. With that in mind, below are some of the notable challenges associated with iPaaS adoption.
Consider some of the following challenges:
- Firstly, many iPaaS offerings work better in certain circumstances and use cases than others, which can make it difficult for organizations to choose the right vendor.
- Secondly, while iPaaS assumes responsibility for a large number of management concerns, an enterprise must dedicate staff to supervise the platform’s operations and regularly evaluate its impact on business processes.
- Last but not least, iPaaS offerings can manage security, but the organization is still ultimately responsible and liable for any breaches or data loss that occur.
As a rule of thumb, try to understand what your organization needs before determining if iPaaS is the answer, in whole or part.
The Best iPaaS Practices For More Data-Driven Business Results
Meanwhile, as with any increasingly crowded and diverse marketplace, expect vendors to consolidate and also expand their portfolios. Salesforce bought Mulesoft in 2018, Boomi bought Unifi in 2020, and in 2021 Jitterbit is acquiring eBridge Connections while Boomi itself is spun out of Dell. Gartner predicts continued success for both larger iPaaS vendors.
Such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and IBM — and the aforementioned “born in the cloud” iPaaS providers, while vendors still attached to traditional integration approaches and ESB may struggle to keep up. Having said that, below are some of the topmost best iPaaS practices that your business needs to consider.
1. Utilize a mix of iPaaS platforms
While more than one iPaaS platform may sound duplicative, not every iPaaS platform will offer exactly the same menu of specific integrations. Because iPaaS is a cloud-based pay-as-you-go product, a business may be able to affordably leverage multiple iPaaS platforms to fill in any gaps — although multiple iPaaS platforms will require additional diligence for monitoring and management.
2. Fill in the application stack gaps
Prior to iPaaS adoption, consider all the applications that must be integrated. An iPaaS platform should ideally provide all of the integrations necessary to connect all of the apps involved. If not, the business may need additional integration mechanisms and must figure out how to manage and monitor them all — which reduces the value proposition of iPaaS.
3. Use the key integration and setup tools
iPaaS can offer helpful automations, but administrators must monitor and audit iPaaS activities to verify that data was integrated as intended and utilization accurately reflects billing. Don’t simply assume that you can implement iPaaS and leave it unattended.
4. Cover up unexpected/arising disruptions
Businesses engage iPaaS providers as business partners, but iPaaS providers deal with infrastructure and software like any third-party service provider and may suffer downtime and disruption. Understand the service-level agreement and stay diligent for any announcements of service downtime that might impact the business.
4. Watch out for changes/new iPaaS features
IT environments evolve, and iPaaS may need periodic updates to adjust integrations or workflows to reflect new or changed applications. Periodically re-evaluate all active integrations, and determine if new plugins or modules are available from the iPaaS provider that might offer better performance or simplify workflows.
All in all, the future for iPaaS seems quite bright: As a matter of fact, a majority of enterprise businesses continue to embrace distributed microservices-based applications, cloud services, and diverse data sources and stitch them all together. On the same note, there are deeper ties between iPaaS software applications and overall result-driven business goals.
While, at the same time, providing a unique way for unifying workflows and governing customer data at greater lengths — something that will further influence iPaaS providers’ market strategies — towards bringing in more data-driven results.
Given time, trends surrounding the enterprise software industry suggest that iPaaS technology will continue to overlap with various fields. Such as API management, SaaS integrations, digital transformation, robotic process automation (RPA), and business process automation (BPA). We expect to see more and more iPaaS products flooding the market.
In particular, with refined AI, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities as they continue to address increasingly complex integrations, expanding volumes of data, multi-cloud hosting, and serverless deployments. Today, most iPaaS tools usage focuses more on business workflows and wholesome management process automation.
Considerably, it provides a myriad of abilities such as one-click integrations, visual interfaces with drag-and-drop process linking, and low-code functionality — they are all the more essential. That said, it is unclear whether businesses that invest heavily in the cloud will continue to rely on third-party iPaaS offerings or choose to lean toward native integration services.
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