What is iPaaS? The practical guide to Integration Platform-as-a-Service
An integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based platform that provides automated tools for creating and managing integrations between applications. It simplifies integration, allowing users to easily connect applications, data sources or legacy systems located in the cloud, on-premises or in hybrid environments.
With the rise of cloud computing, data and applications are now distributed across far more platforms and locations than ever. This is driving demand for iPaaS solutions that bring distributed resources and systems together in a manageable, flexible way, even across hybrid cloud, cloud, and multi-cloud environments.
An iPaaS connects systems that would otherwise be siloed, across a diverse enterprise landscape, and provides a set of consistent solutions to a wide array of end-users.
Traditionally, an iPaaS provides an on-demand integration platform for data and applications. A multi-function iPaaS expands on this limited set of functions with capabilities that extend across the continuum of integration—including API management, B2B, managed file transfer (MFT), microservices and IoT.
By offering the ability to integrate anything, anywhere, anytime, by anyone, the right multi-function iPaaS enables new use cases from a single integrated platform. The ability to integrate data, applications, APIs and other business assets encourages reuse across the organization, unlocking greater agility and performance consistency when developing applications or creating new services.
How does an iPaaS work?
An iPaaS allows users to bridge data and applications deployed in different environments, such as on-premises and on the cloud, via pre-built connectors and protocols. These connections standardize communication between applications, facilitating real-time data exchange through a mutually understood language.
Automated integrations, orchestrated by an iPaaS, help streamline operations through delivery of accurate, free-flowing data across all your systems. For example, you can connect your inventory management software with your messaging application and automate a process between the applications, such as receiving a Slack notification to fulfill an order the moment it is placed.
An iPaaS makes your ecosystem of integrations comprehensible with dashboards and a user-friendly interface. Many iPaaS offerings are moving toward low-code / no-code drag-and-drop capabilities so business leaders and citizen integrators can assemble and deploy new integrations, as well as retire or replace existing ones. But there is still value in an iPaaS that also offers a high code environment for programmers who want greater control in how they develop.
Core iPaaS capabilities
Though iPaaS platforms vary in which specific integrations they support, many share capabilities to connect various applications, platforms and systems. Common capabilities generally include:
- Centralized visibility of integrations to monitor performance including latency, resource utilization and workflow performance
- Easy-to-use interface for creating and managing integrations including platform deployment, data integration and app management processes
- Pre-built connectors that can integrate a comprehensive list of popular SaaS applications
- Ability to modify or build new connectors for custom applications or new technologies
- Supports standard protocols for connectivity, such as HTTP, FTP, Advanced Messaging Queuing Protocol and Open Data Protocol
- Guided integrations for bespoke integrations and management of legacy applications
- Automatic data translation to facilitate data sharing in formats such as JSON and XML
- Orchestration for automating processes or synchronizing data in real-time
- Standard security features such as access control, single sign-on and data encryption
Multi-function iPaaS capabilities
Multi-function iPaaS solutions, such as webMethods.io, expand on basic integration scenarios to offer a far richer set of capabilities along the integration continuum provided by API management tools, enterprise service buses (ESBs), data integration systems, and B2B gateways.
Consider the problems that a multi-function iPaaS helps you solve.
- Challenge: Adding new standalone SaaS apps, APIs, and services to solve short-term business challenges. This introduces complexity and architectural debt that you will need to address in the future.
The multi-function iPaaS solution: Connect all your data and integrate nearly everything. Business users gain visibility into sales, customer, and product data across your systems, apps, and data sources to drive strategic and operational responsiveness.
- Challenge: Facing pressure to move to the cloud to save money and resources, you are slowed down by the complexity of re-implementing apps, data migration, and training.
The multi-function iPaaS solution: Increase operational efficiency with business automation. This is harder than ever when you are managing highly distributed systems, partners and suppliers in the cloud. The right iPaaS solution also helps reduce costs and eliminate errors with top notch troubleshooting and error handling capabilities.
- Challenge: Implement an architecture that responds to the demands of cloud and scales without replacing systems of record.
The multi-function iPaaS solution: Integrate data and systems so it’s easier to migrate to the cloud while accessing on-premises data more easily, gain the ability to scale rapidly to take advantage of market opportunities, and try new fast-fail ideas.
What should you look for in an iPaaS?
So, you’re ready to accelerate your cloud journey with an iPaaS. But how do you choose the best iPaaS solution for your business? Here are three factors to look for when shopping for an iPaaS:
1. Does the iPaaS align with your business strategy?
Some organizations need an iPaaS for integrating everything with ERP. Some organizations want to focus on the insights that they can extract from production lines. Others want to launch new digital services. And some have a diverse array of needs.
Identify your unique strategic business usages for integration—whether that be data integration, process automation, B2B integration or all of the above—and look for iPaaS providers aligned with those usages.
2. Does the iPaaS enable modern application architecture?
Identify integration’s role in your modern architecture and choose a vendor that can fulfill those needs. For example, integration is needed to stitch together the smaller deployable components used in cloud-native applications.
API-led business strategies rely on an integration platform to assemble composite APIs in various configurations for a range of products and consumers.
An iPaaS that aligns with your architectural objectives puts you in a much better position as your enterprise deploys, develops and enables new components over time.
3. Does your iPaaS empower both citizen integrators and professional developers?
As demand for IT expertise continues to surpass supply (a problem that was only exacerbated by the pandemic), an iPaaS that offers citizen coders the ability to build and modify integrations is an asset. Putting integration in the hands of business users can accelerate your digital transformation strategy and bring new products and services to market faster.
Citizen integrator capabilities, such as drag-and-drop interfaces to build, modify and implement integrations, allow a wider range of stakeholders to leverage iPaaS capabilities.
Still, there’s a benefit of a high-code environment for integration specialists who want greater control and feature sets.
Identify the level of maturity you need for your integration strategy, from citizen integrators to specialists, and look for vendors that offer a unified platform that serves all your internal users.
What is the difference between iPaaS, PaaS and EiPaaS?
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) uses third-party providers to host cloud-based applications delivered over the internet. Many, but not all, of these applications are accessed through a browser. These days, a large organization may have hundreds or even thousands of independent SaaS applications—which can introduce risks of vendor lock-in, interoperability issues, data silos and disconnected information.
A platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a broader computing platform hosted in the cloud that lets developers in an organization easily build, deploy and manage their own applications without the complexity of dealing with operating systems and defined infrastructure.
An iPaaS solution offers the best features of SaaS and PaaS. iPaaS solutions offer integration capabilities for connecting applications from different vendors and across different environments. For companies that rely on various legacy and SaaS applications across multiple departments, an iPaaS acts as the central hub that unifies the information and processes.
Similar to iPaaS, an enterprise integration platform-as-a-service (EiPaaS) is a collection of integration technologies, but more so designed to support enterprise-class integration scenarios. This generally means features including high availability, disaster recovery, security, SLAs and technical support.
With an easy, fast and simplified solution to integration, you’ll be able to solve your most pressing transformation initiatives, unlock innovation and modernize rapidly.
1. Transform your business
Don’t leave your core legacy systems behind on your road toward digital transformation and cloud platforms.
An iPaaS allows your organization to extend all of your existing applications, data and services by transforming them into a foundation for new capabilities. Adopt new SaaS applications and integrate with core systems for added value, better business visibility and access to all the data you have.
2. Modernize your business
Modernize your business with the rapid development and deployment of APIs to power mobile and web applications, safely and securely, reusing data and services from existing applications.
The ability to seamlessly configure, deploy and integrate with APIs of any software or system allows you to rapidly grow with success. “Everything-as-an-API” automation accelerates DevSecOps and CI/CD support for supporting frequent, predictable and reliable releases, which is a key business requirement for customers.
3. Accelerate innovation
To stay ahead of competitors, there’s a need to innovate toward new digital capabilities and products. The challenge is bringing those innovative ideas to life.
Building a differentiating digital product or service requires access to data locked away in applications, databases and legacy systems. With an iPaaS, you can connect data with customers to open new opportunities and innovative possibilities, such as upsell and cross-sell, new revenue streams and new markets.
While integration sounds like a fool-proof route to success, you may still come across some road bumps.
With the relatively young nature of the iPaaS market, there’s bound to be challenges that arise. It’s best to be informed of these challenges to avoid a costly mistake.
Heterogeneous data models and APIs
Ensuring data can be shared across applications can be a challenge, even with standards-based protocols. Data can be inconsistent, visibility can be splintered—and applications with different requirements for data access only further complicate the issue.
The best solutions focus on an API-led, hybrid integration approach. By using APIs to assemble new solutions, you can connect systems securely without redundancy and losses during transition.
Addressing multiple environments in a coordinated fashion
It can be challenging to create a single and consistent view when integrating systems from disconnected environments. Often, options that support cloud integrations limit companies with on-premises legacy applications. And iPaaS offerings that only handle the most modern applications may leave out many applications companies still rely on.
A solution, however, is an iPaaS that supports hybrid integrations. Comprehensive integration enables companies to utilize all of the systems they rely on and seamlessly move data between the on-premises applications, data streams, SaaS applications, legacy data stores and cloud data platforms.
Maintaining security across applications
Ensuring security across cloud applications can be difficult when different applications have incompatible security profiles. Weakness in security can have severe implications for your services, your customers and your company, and inconsistent security hinders the people in your organization who rely on that data for their role. Maintaining security across cloud environments can be a challenge—your iPaaS must protect both the application itself, and your diverse array of users, by ensuring that only authorized requests can access services and data in the iPaaS environment.
As low-cost competitors move into the market, you need to react quickly with new services and apps to delight your customers and prevent customer churn. And integration is key to this innovation.
However, if you’re constantly relying on the same team for this, your IT backlog ends up growing indefinitely. That’s why you should look for solutions that align business and IT under a common goal.
Let your developers go deep with full control, while also giving non-technical users the ability to bring these business innovations to life. When everyone can contribute, you get more services, happier customers, a shrinking IT backlog and a serious competitive edge.
Scalability for growing data volumes
An increase in data volume is unavoidable—both as long term trend and short-term data spikes. Platforms that aren’t designed with scalability run the risk of being overwhelmed by a surge in data, or become less performant or affordable as data grows over a period of years. If your iPaaS solution can’t manage your data volumes, you’ll be left with lower system performance or too-late insights.
The best solutions are supported by third-party infrastructure, with the ability to scale on demand to handle high volumes of requests and data traffic for demanding workloads.
Integrating and automating everything—from applications to device data and beyond—will make your processes more efficient and your business more agile. However, with every new integration you install, the iPaaS will need to modify the connections to fulfill the new integration. This process can generate downtime, and over time can make your ecosystem less responsive and stable.
A solution lies in an iPaaS that can synchronize data and automate any kind of integration across your architecture as it scales to address your evolving business needs.
The present and future of iPaaS
What can you expect from an iPaaS solution today, and what’s being developed for future capabilities? Here is a snapshot of where the market is headed.
Present capabilities of iPaaS
The current iPaaS market offers a rich set of capabilities relating to various functions required to connect applications, services and data for free-flowing information, such as API management, security, B2B and MFT capabilities.
The tried-and-true classic integration patterns for data consistency are generally supported in the current market, allowing users to create automated workflows and processes in a few steps. Most integration providers also offer hybrid architecture capabilities for connecting the on-premises, private cloud and public cloud applications. These providers meet the needs of many personas that expand beyond IT, so all can participate.
Evolving capabilities of iPaaS
The iPaaS market is evolving in its ability to run enterprise-class, multi-cloud orchestrations, giving customers the freedom to be cloud agnostic.
There’s also an emergence of low code streaming capabilities, which is allowing business technologists to access streaming data in easy-to-use features and integrate without waiting for IT.
Data integration and analytics are advancing, for example with machine learning capabilities, to generate better business insights and make smarter integration decisions.
Future capabilities of iPaaS
The future capabilities of the iPaaS market includes the expansion of automation—bringing apps into the discussion. In the future, business technologists will be able to easily build daily-use business apps for themselves and their team of analysts in the platform, blurring the lines between low code app development and low code integrations.
With the expansion of cloud data warehouses, reverse ETL will also shape the future market as app and data integration become adjacent use cases. Once the data is driven into a cloud data warehouse through the reverse ETL process, the analyzed data and insights can be used to influence existing business processes, and this data can be synchronized back into the original source systems, like ERP and CRM.
Lastly, the role and composition of the integration center of excellence (CoE) will change with different personas now playing a role in developing integrations and in need of collaboration and governance.
iPaaS examples and use cases
High-level use cases of iPaaS includes application integration, B2B integration, data integration and process automation. Learn more about each use case, and how four Software AG customers utilize them.
1. Application integration
Integrating your applications allows you to stitch together everything that keeps your business running—and makes it run better.
Despite investing in a range of apps for online sales, CRM and internal communications, Foreach Brewing, an Amsterdam-based microbrewery, realized that better integration was needed to run the business.
Foreach Brewing needed to find an integration solution to solve their repetitive manual tasks, such as counting inventory in the warehouse, compiling accounting reports and repeatedly checking to see if products had reached the right customers—all of which that took away time from strategizing on growing the business.
Using Software AG’s powerful and easy-to-use cloud-based iPaaS, Foreach acquired better visibility into their operations and a more effective way to work. All applications are now seamlessly connected, so for example, when a customer places an order, the team receives an instant notification on Slack and can immediately fulfil it.
2. B2B integration
An iPaaS can offer B2B integration—from partner management to managed file transfers—to ensure all communications are in the right format and put in the right place.
Komatsu, one of the world’s largest suppliers of utility, construction and mining equipment, faced complex business operations built on one legacy ERP system that could only process CSV files in batch jobs. Subsidiaries knew it needed the right middleware to share data with third parties.
With Software AG, Komatsu utilized the B2B gateway to integrate and manage trading partners, manage business processes and link related documents. Importantly, by integrating 100 years of data once locked into the legacy system, Komatsu gained a “single source of truth” for all B2B transactions moving forward.
3. Process automation
Integration and automation make business processes more efficient, and an iPaaS expands these capabilities. An iPaaS expedites your business processes and workflows by synchronizing data and automating integrations, eliminating data silos, and allowing for better visibility and easy access to your data.
A truly scalable, enterprise iPaaS product can drive high-performance processes and customer facing services 24x7x365—but backend processes must be integrated with “front office” functionality to provide a unified user experience. Digital Dubai, the Dubai government office charged with facilitating the city’s smart transformation, saw this opportunity to improve user experience.
Dubai had dozens of independent apps, offering residents and visitors a wide array of services at the touch of a screen. In a strategic partnership with Software AG, Digital Dubai built a unified integration backbone for its various government entities with API, BPMS and automation support layers, and began enhancing services on streamlined mobile apps, self-service kiosks and more. This replaced in-person visits for things such as acquiring a new business license, as the iPaaS automated relevant processes on the backend, giving smooth journeys for users on the other side.
How webMethods.io iPaaS delivers value
Solving the hard problems with webMethods.io
As the leading multi-function iPaaS, webMethods.io is uniquely equipped to help you solve truly challenging business problems.
- Challenge: Improving automation of core complex, hybrid workflows to meet customer and partner expectations and timelines.
The webMethods.io solution: With 550+ connectors available to connect to SAP, mainframes, Snowflake for data integration, trading partners (B2B) and custom apps, webMethods.io connects all your data, apps, devices and partners and integrates them easily. It offers powerful data analytics from cloud data platforms as well as a broad variety of other sources. webMethods.io optimizes for new data sources and data patterns while being resilient to change.
- Challenge: The global supply chain has become more fragmented and unpredictable. It’s affecting your ability to meet SLAs and costing you money.
The webMethods.io solution: Supply chain visibility, enabling your business to track products across systems, identify poor performers, control costs, and improve customer service.
- Challenge: Dated technologies are cumbersome and difficult to adapt when requirements change, but ripping and replacing legacy systems with new commercially available and SaaS apps can overwhelm IT with data migration and user training.
The webMethods.io solution: Gain access to siloed systems of record and accelerate digital transformation by leveraging existing investments with a “leave and layer” approach.
- Challenge: IT has limited resources for business projects. Current systems require integration specialists, while citizen and “ad hoc” integrators are unable to contribute.
The webMethods.io solution: Empower ad hoc integrators & integration specialists to create integrations on the platform. You can use recipes or build custom integrations, plus gain the ability to embed custom integrations within your own apps.
- Challenge: You are forced to adopt tools and implement them in multiple clouds to meet your goals, but your integration platform only works with one cloud.
The webMethods.io solution: webMethods.io works with multiple clouds—both private and public.
Business benefits of webMethods.io
- API-led integration
The key to mastering integration? Being able to rapidly deploy in a frequent, predictable and reliable manner. Swiftly turn integrations into APIs, or create APIs first and build the integrations later, all with total end-to-end visibility. This helps you to securely manage and expose APIs for use in web, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) applications—the foundation for creating new business models.
- Embedded headless integration
Our embedded headless integration offers easy “under the covers” integration for any size company or IT application. Deliver integrations without changing the user interface or experience for their end users.
- Pay-as-you-go transaction-based pricing
With a pay-as-you-go transaction-based pricing, you’ll get full flexibility to run integrations across a hybrid landscape without restrictions. This offers low-cost entry and a scaling model that they can predict easily.
- Cloud agnostic hybrid platform
Multi-cloud orchestrations give customers the freedom to be cloud agnostic. Gain the ability to run your integrations in multi-cloud orchestrations, or biplane architecture with a control plane and our individual runtime data planes, which can be deployed in a distributed hybrid architecture.
- UX tailored to each audience
webMethods.io is for everyone: business technologists, ad hoc integrators, citizen integrators, administrators and integration specialists. Our multi-persona user experience brings together everyone on a single platform with their own unique development experience.
- Self-service B2B partner onboarding
As an add-on to webMethods.io B2B, the app supports self-service onboarding, which is very important while onboarding many partners. B2B administrators can also manually enter partner onboarding information via the app, including partner user and certificate info.
- End-to-end hybrid monitoring
Gain a full view of a business transaction going across the iPaaS landscape, including transactions that originate and traverse into any of API, B2B and integration cloud offerings as well as to a self-hosted hybrid integration landscape.