Blog: What is iPaaS? Explanation, Benefits & Use Cases

An iPaaS – or Integration Platform as a Service – provides a centralized console to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications

Here is everything you need to know about iPaaS:

  • What is iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service)?
  • 4 iPaaS Benefits
  • Typical Challenges with an iPaaS
  • 3 iPaaS Integration Patterns
  • iPaaS Alternatives
  • iPaaS Functionalities
  • What to Look for in an iPaaS
  • Choosing the Right iPaaS Solution

What is iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service)?

An iPaaS – or Integration Platform as a Service – provides a centralized console to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications, using tools that connect cloud applications and services, and control integration flows. Companies use iPaaS solutions to scale performance needs, add product functionality, and structure SaaS applications and on-premise application integration, all to increase the value of their business relationships.

While it is easy to see why an iPaaS is such an effective tool for integration, there are a few different forms of iPaaS that are distinct from one another. Depending on your needs within the enterprise, a specific category may be better suited to solving the most crucial integration challenges you face.

Why an iPaaS?

Nowadays, in order to meet customer demand, stay ahead of competitors, and increase agility, companies must have an enterprise integration solution in place that can effectively encompass ever-expanding integration requirements across multiple application, data, and ecosystem patterns. That’s why more and more companies are looking to tap the potential for expansive integration capabilities offered by a dynamic subset of the application infrastructure and middleware (AIM) technology market – Integration Platform as a Service.

4 iPaaS Benefits

As more and more enterprises leap to some form of cloud computing, the struggle becomes how to manage the different applications and business processes effectively. Enter iPaaS, which is designed to integrate the many cloud services with one another in a seamless, easy-to-manage way. Trying to integrate multiple cloud systems can be quite a headache for enterprise IT, which is why iPaaS is growing so fast. In fact, in 2017, the iPaaS market grew beyond $1 billion for the very first time.    But there are many ways an enterprise can take advantage of an iPaaS platform. Those include:

1. Better Connectivity

An enterprise’s IT environment can get complicated in a hurry. The allure of iPaaS is that it can potentially connect everything that an enterprise needs connected. What good are software, applications, and other business processes if they don’t even work together? An iPaaS allows the business to integrate a broad variety of cloud and on-premise applications to facilitate hybrid data flows, synchronize data, improve operational workflows, and gain better visibility.

Enterprises have embraced iPaaS because it gives businesses the flexibility to integrate all the cloud and on-premise applications and sync that data. 

2. Cost Control

Build it or buy it? It is an age-old question for IT. Companies that employ an army of coders to design and maintain an in-house integration system will often find prices to soar out of control while paying for consultants to develop custom connections to different third party providers can also exponentially raise prices. Conversely, iPaaS is typically consumed as a service allowing the enterprise more flexibility to offset the hard costs of traditional integration. However, because most offerings will still need to be managed by the enterprise, the company must maintain the integration center of excellence internally, and this can inevitably represent a human capital expense.

3. Better API Management

Effective API management has become a difficult and arduous task as organizations look beyond the technical need of APIs and deploy more business-oriented APIs. In order for an enterprise to quickly and more importantly, efficiently, access and share real-time data, it’s critical to have a level of API management functionality. Through iPaaS, companies gain a single platform to integrate and manage all of their APIs with the ability to scale as needed. Companies are then able to create, deploy, and manage APIs while adding new functions and tools as needed.

4. Secure Your Enterprise

One of the biggest concerns (if not the biggest) enterprises have in regard to cloud computing is a security or lack thereof. An iPaaS solution can reduce the risk of a data breach because the vendor constantly manages the system and infrastructure. IPaaS vendors also provide verification and authentication procedures for the various data flows streaming in from all over the business ecosystem

An iPaaS solution also gives businesses a reason to sleep easy at night, knowing that their systems and applications are truly sure. Even today, many view cloud computing with a sense of trepidation due to the potential for a security breach. A comprehensive iPaaS solution, however, can greatly reduce the risk of a data breach.

Typical Challenges with an iPaaS

The benefits that an enterprise can gain from iPaaS are evident. But while iPaaS can handle all of your integration needs, in order for a platform to truly succeed and run efficiently, there are a few challenges that enterprises must also navigate to do so.

1. Complexity

One of the alluring promises of iPaaS is that it is able to take a complex environment, whether it’s on-premise or cloud, or a mix-and-match of both, and then simplify it. However, that environment is still pretty complex. An iPaaS can often require a specialized developer integration talent, especially as data complexity increases within the enterprise and it is harder than ever to find employees who have this specialized talent.

2. Security

Yes, security is also a strength when it comes to iPaaS, but because this is still cloud computing we are talking about, it also has to be included as a challenge. The cloud, specifically the public cloud is a fear for many enterprises when it comes to security breaches and maintaining a high level of security.

3. Scalability

Yes, scalability is also one of the promises of iPaaS, but for some enterprises, that can present an issue if they aren’t prepared to deal with an uptick in scalability. When implementing a platform, IT pros must look out for the scalability of their model, which includes the size of individual transactions, as well as the overall pace of transactions per hour. Enterprises must take careful consideration about what their iPaaS can and cannot handle.

3 iPaaS Integration Patterns

As more and more enterprises leap to some form of cloud computing, the struggle becomes how to manage the different applications and business processes effectively. Enter iPaaS, which is designed to integrate the many cloud services with one another in a seamless, easy-to-manage way. Trying to integrate multiple cloud systems can be quite a headache for enterprise IT, which is why iPaaS is growing so fast. In fact, in 2017, the iPaaS market grew beyond $1 billion for the very first time. But there are many ways an enterprise can take advantage of an iPaaS platform. Those include:

1. B2B Ecosystem Integration

Modern B2B integration technology facilitates ecosystem enablement through multi-enterprise communication and business continuity in its ability to power, govern, and automate frictionless data exchanges beyond the four walls of the business. A domain-specific platform allows enterprises to meet expansive interaction requirements with partners and customers, move data between disparate internal systems, and connect and integrate cloud services and applications in a well-governed way.

2. Hybrid Integration

An iPaaS platform also enables companies to accelerate ground-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud integration processes that easily integrate applications, and storage and business platforms, to connect all data, whether it's on-premise or in the cloud. Through iPaaS, it’s easier than ever to enable hybrid connectivity to Software as a Service applications (SaaS) and other cloud applications with a secure method to access on-premises applications behind a firewall.

3. Application Integration

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is the proliferation of cloud applications across the enterprise. An iPaaS is often the first line of defense in providing the ability to unify integrations between applications and provide some coherence across all the data flowing through the enterprise. However, standalone cloud application integration without taking into account the need to tie in on-premise integration and ecosystem integration requirements. Thus, an overemphasis on application integration alone potentially creates a new type of integration silo.

Cloud iPaaS vs. Hybrid iPaaS

An iPaaS architecture can take a variety of shapes, but it is most common is as a service deployed through the cloud. And that’s OK if you want to leverage all your integration capabilities in a cloud environment. There is, however, a hybrid iPaaS architecture that can be used for private cloud deployment as well as a hybrid iPaaS model that offers on-premise capabilities in addition to the cloud capabilities. This method might feature agents that allow the cloud platform to connect and integrate on-premise servers or applications.

For instance, a convenience store chain might have a cloud platform through which it runs and manages its overall integration processes, but each of its stores might have an on-premise agent that captures and stores point-of-sale data and moves it back to the corporate cloud. The corporate office also could move promotional information, update inventory data, and roll out updates and changes to each agent via the centralized cloud platform.

iPaaS Alternatives

Further, iPaaS is not the only means of integrating applications today.

iPaaS vs ESB

Enterprise service bus (ESB) is a technical implementation approach to enabling application integration and delivering Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). ESBs function with a set of rules that work collectively to integrate different applications together, and whereas an iPaaS provides more flexibility, it can also complement an ESB. ESBs are recommended for creating aggregating services and have also evolved to support cloud services while communicating with RESTful APIs.

SaaS vs. iPaaS

An iPaaS platform is a subcategory of cloud services. While SaaS providers manage all aspects of the application, iPaaS providers allow customers to keep control of their applications and data. Further, SaaS offerings may be used for analytics and benefit from effective and efficient integration, integration is not their primary function. iPaaS on the other hand serves to integrate SaaS solutions, designed to connect multiple cloud services together.

iPaaS Functionalities

While the promise of an integration platform as a service is wide-ranging, the question becomes just how does an iPaaS run? There are many core functionalities that make up the design of an iPaaS, and according to Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service, in order for the solution itself to truly be a legitimate platform, it should include a wide range of these capabilities:

  • Data Connectivity
    • Secure communication protocol connectors, such as FTP/SFTP, HTTP/S, AS2/AS3/AS4, OFTP/OFTP2
    • Application connectors/adapters for SaaS and on-premise applications
    • Data formats, such as XML, JSON, ASN.1
    • Data standards, such as EDI, EDIFACT, HL7, and SWIFT
    • IoT protocols, such as AMQP, MQTT, Kafka
  • Data mapping and transformation
  • Data quality assurance
  • Routing and orchestration
  • Integration flow development and life cycle management tools
  • Integration flow operational monitoring and management
  • Full life cycle API management

What to Look for in an iPaaS

An iPaaS architecture offers a lot of promise, but enterprises generally look for some common features and capabilities during the discovery and selection phases. Some of the things to look for in an iPaaS architecture include:

  • The ability to integrate with new data sources and other business processes
  • Data reliability, uptime, and security
  • Management solutions, including API management
  • Monitoring solutions that provide end-to-end visibility
  • Ability to scale and adapt to meet evolving enterprise needs
  •  Storing data on-premises, in the cloud, and in a hybrid scenario

The Future of iPaaS

The truth of the matter is that in terms of integration, the future is already here for enterprise IT. Enterprises must have an integration solution, even if it is faced with the most complex of environments. Integration platform as a service will only grow more popular and widely used in enterprises as the years go on. Platforms will continue to evolve, as more vendors begin to surface. Cloud-based integration solutions will become more evident than simply on-premise ones. Companies that have been scared of moving to the cloud will be forced to dip their toes into the iPaaS market, and before they know it, will jump headfirst after realizing the benefits that come from iPaaS.

Choosing the Right iPaaS Solution

Now that you know what it is exactly that you should look for when it comes time to select an iPaaS solution, there is one platform that stands above the rest: Cleo Integration Cloud.

G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer business solutions review platform, recognized Cleo Integration Cloud in its summer 2020 reports as a Leader on the G2 Crowd Grid® for Best iPaaS software. Solutions in the Leader quadrant, the highest-ranking on the grid, are rated favorably by G2 Crowd users and have substantial market presence scores. Cleo previously was named an iPaaS leader in G2 Crowd’s winter report.

Cleo Integration Cloud is a next-generation iPaaS solution that is focused on providing businesses multi-enterprise and intra-enterprise integration solutions. It leverages integration technology that manages cloud interactions to ensure customers’ current and future business potential is realized.

Learn how the Cleo Integration Cloud iPaaS platform can address your integration and business needs today.

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