What is an Integration Platform (iPaaS)?

This content was last reviewed on: 
November 29, 2022

What is an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)?

As technology accelerates exponentially, developers need the right combination of skills and tools.

An incredibly powerful innovation developers should be taking advantage of is iPaaS, or Integration Platform as a Service. iPaaS is designed to combine the strengths of several existing platforms and systems, housing them under one roof with the promise of improvements in performance. iPaaS integrates software and applications from several (or in certain cases, from a single) vendor into a single platform, bringing the advantages and capabilities of typically disparate tools together in one mighty, handy interface.

Might the use of iPaaS be right for you? In this article, explore the advantages, known challenges, and overall potential that adding iPaaS to your arsenal might bring.

  1. What an iPaaS does
  2. How it works
  3. Important features
  4. Open source and free tools
  5. How the market is changing
  6. Limitations
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What Does an iPaaS Do?

Every developer wants a smoother workflow – without sacrificing clarity in data and the capabilities unlocked by their go-to tools.

Based in the cloud, an iPaaS is a vendor managed integration solution. It’s designed so you can connect your databases, systems and applications easily, all while helping you monitor ongoing data feeds, metrics and overarching business processes.

In a sense, an iPaaS allows separate components within a broader development ecosystem to interact, but without the user needing to direct them to do so.

For the most part, the best iPaaS tools for developers are very versatile too. Alongside straightforward cloud integration, they often allow on-premises to cloud integration, as well as connectivity between on-premesis integrated devices.

These tools can be a dream for developers that love to tinker or improve workflow. When you’re able to dive deep into the API level of a given iPaaS, you can connect several separate systems, processes and applications into a cohesive and interactive whole – even if their underlying technologies are different.

That unlocks the potential for automation, multi-system workflows, and plenty of hands-off productivity – without a single line of custom code.

Graphic that juxtaposes the architecture of point-to-point integration versus the architecture with an iPaaS in place.
Point-to-Point vs. iPaaS Architecture

How Advanced Can an iPaaS Become?

In the right hands, an iPaaS can become an indispensable part of any developer’s daily productivity cycle. Truly complex and meticulous data exchanges are possible, all designed to sustain accuracy and efficiency throughout.

Without the need for coding an iPaaS can queue messages, process events, integrate B2B functionality, maintain high data quality, transform data between formats or systems, among other capabilities.

Why Is Using an iPaaS Mission-critical Today?

Business and its core technologies are growing ever more complicated, and the end result is that even the most agile organizations in the world are at risk of getting bogged down in busywork and minutiae.

It’s therefore no surprise that iPaaS solutions are growing in popularity in all kinds of business – and have been for years. Companies and startups are keen to stay streamlined, and that means a resource like an iPaaS, designed to reduce costs and simplify the day-to-day workflow, are appealing.

iPaas is designed with business growth in mind. iPaaS technology is typically easy to scale to the needs of a given business – and it often boasts a greater degree of flexibility than operating without iPaaS. Businesses can sidestep the need for costly on-site hardware and integration software, and simply leave iPaaS fine-tuning in developers’ capable hands.

The advantages of the cloud are a tremendous benefit of iPaaS solutions. With enterprise level IT infrastructure accessible via these platforms, it’s far easier to react to problems and preempt technical challenges before they have the chance to turn into expensive downtime or catastrophic data disasters.

What Are The Most Appealing Features of an iPaaS?

No business rushes into new investments and solutions without first having a grasp of the basics. Luckily, the benefits of putting iPaaS technologies to work in almost any business model are easy to understand.

  • Being cloud based means that iPaaS solutions are highly scalable, without huge demand for physical infrastructure. As business changes over the time, so too can your iPaaS.
  • Many iPaaS available on the market today are designed with out-of-the-box solutions – handy if you’re introducing them into an enterprise ahead of a new project that needs to hit the ground running.
  • Application and data connectors within iPaaS HUDs, dashboards, and APIs are easily recognized and connected.
  • No coding expertise is required – the user interface of every iPaaS out there is designed to be intuitive. You can drag and drop your UI to best suit the needs of your workflow, and easily produce data mapping and transformations as required.
  • Every iPaaS thrives by helping its users to maximize their efficiency. Rather than juggling multiple apps and setting up new tools the long winded way, your iPaaS dashboard offers a centralized command center to manage data, apps and permissions.
  • Despite this centralization of data, iPaaS systems leverage the full advantages of the cloud to remain highly secure against cybercrime and the efforts of bad actors to illegally access sensitive information.
  • Every iPaaS is extremely customizable, meaning it can meet the needs of several kinds of industry and business models. This flexibility is ongoing too – you can completely reconfigure your iPaaS to pivot to an entirely new industry, if you need to. Either way, you’re well positioned against unexpected market challenges.

Why is an iPaaS Important When Using The Cloud?

While almost every business recognizes how vital the cloud has become to how things run nowadays, that doesn’t mean every organization fully understands it – or is ready to migrate to a fully cloud based solution.

An iPaaS reduces the confusion of juggling multiple software tools and other data assets. Instead, a single and highly customizable platform is put into action – all while highlighting transparency in workflows and clearly showing which systems are connected to which, and how.

Perhaps the best part of all this is how cost effective using an iPaaS makes it. In this way, businesses aren’t only streamlining their profitability – but also their balance sheets.

How Does an iPaaS Work?

At the more technical level, an iPaaS works by creating a virtual platform through which programs and applications combine and share resources – all within a GUI and ecosystem that’s consistent and intuitive.

Behind the scenes, your iPaaS is doing a lot of work seamlessly connecting cloud and legacy applications, all while ensuring they are able to communicate and efficiently divide your network’s resources.

Futureproofing is a major factor in iPaaS design. That means not only do they withstand large volumes of data at any given time, but also that they can undertake more complex B2B transactions, streamline development cycles to better reach your KPIs per sprint, and also ease the transition between viewing data on a computer screen versus a mobile device, and vice-versa.

The Most Important Features to Look For in Your iPaaS

Below are some of the most important features of iPaaS systems – consider how they relate to your business needs today, as well as the requirements it may in the future.

That should help you make an informed decision on which iPaaS is best for your needs.

  • Availability of connectors
  • Availability of out-of-the box solutions
  • Support for routing and orchestration
  • Support for pub/sub use cases with the help of message queues or event brokers.
  • Reduced dependence on legacy systems – and therefore better cybersecurity.
  • Ability to rapidly adapt to changes in business activity.

In addition, many iPaaS providers offer additional benefits to be privy to, including:

  • Security features (firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems) (IDS/IPS) and secure access controls.)
  • Process automation and orchestration tools to streamline operations and improve coordination across the business.
  • Performance analytics that can identify bottlenecks and optimize performance.

Open Source & Free iPaaS Tools for Developers

While much has been said about how cost-effective a good iPaaS platform can be, developers will be pleased to know there are a number of open-source projects available online too.

Here are a few recommendations:

  • Red Hat Fuse is part of an agile integration solution, and is based on open source communities like Apache Camel and Apache ActiveMQ. It is API-centric and is known for having a distributed approach.
  • WSO2 Enterprise Integrator (WSO2 EI) is an open-source hybrid integration platform, designed to take on several roles in the architecture of any enterprise. It can operate hybrid, in the cloud, on-premesis and features numerous deployment options for developers who enjoy tinkering.
  • TriggerMesh is fully open source, built on Knative and Kubernetes. While versatile, it specializes in event-driven infrastructures.
  • Cenit IO is designed to be intuitive to use from the moment it’s launched, whether on-prem, as a hybrid working model, or fully in the cloud. While open-source, there is a premium level of Pro support that can be opted into.
  • Petals ESB is an open-source Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), based predominantly on Java. Petals specializes in ensuring that disparate systems, utilities and apps can connect and communicate efficiently.

How is the iPaaS Market Developing Worldwide?

As interest surrounding iPaaS services continues to grow all over the world, it stands to reason that the market is in a similarly expansive position. In fact, around 200 vendors and rising are offering businesses iPaaS solutions today.

One reason for this growth is the fact that iPaaS technologies are suitable for an extremely wide range of business applications. Likewise, they can welcome users of all levels of technical proficiency – from full API developers to marketers seeking B2B integrations or project managers seeking more efficient workflows.

The iPaaS ecosystem as a whole is actively pursuing the ideal goal of making their solution the one-stop-shop for every application, task, dataset and business function. It’s no small feat, but it keeps the market competitive– and that means it’s in an organization’s best interests to shop around.

Limitations of iPaaS Technologies

It would be unrealistic to suggest that every iPaaS solution out there is completely flawless. As with any emerging new technology, there are challenges to overcome, and limitations that are best kept in mind.

For example, iPaaS systems can sometimes struggle when asked to connect with custom-built or bespoke integrations. For developers with advanced coding capabilities and some patience, this is not a big problem – but a challenge worth remembering.

On the subject of technical knowledge, keep in mind also that iPaaS systems are largely marketed to developers, programmers, and IT consultants. They demand a level of integration domain knowledge that’s still quite niche in the working world today.

At the broader level, because this is such an active market, iPaaS vendors can become confusing to compare, with feature sets and pricing plans that seem occasionally erratic.

Keep a level head and do your research well, however, and a revolutionary tool for development and business growth is within your reach.

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