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What is iPaaS? Explanation, Benefits & Use Cases

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

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 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.

Three Integration Patterns an iPaaS Can Address

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.

Hybrid Integration

An iPaaS platform also enables companies to accelerate ground-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud integration processes which easily integrate applications, and storage and business platforms, to connect all data, whether its 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.

Application Integration

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is the proliferation of cloud applications across the enterprise. An iPaaS is often a 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.

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 compliment 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 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 serve 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 2017 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

How can iPaaS Benefit Your Organization?

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:

Connection, Connection, Connection

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.

Keep Costs Down

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 represents a human capital expense.

API Management

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 its 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.

Secure Your Enterprise

An iPaaS solution also gives businesses reason to sleep easy at night, knowing that their systems and applications are truly sure. Even today, in 2018, 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 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.

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.

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.

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 platfor, 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.

Cleo Integration Cloud Named a Leading iPaaS Software by G2 Crowd

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 2018 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.

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 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 head first after realizing the benefits that come from iPaaS.

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