What is iPaaS?
iPaaS, or Integration-Platform-as-a-Service, is a self-service cloud-based solution that standardizes how applications are integrated. Developers, consultants and even non-technical users can use iPaaS out-of-the-box to quickly build the integration flows for sharing data within an organization or with multiple companies.
With iPaaS, organizations can more easily connect different applications, data, business processes, and services, whether they are hosted on-premises, in a private cloud, or within a public cloud environment. iPaaS also gives DevOps and IT departments a way to build integrations quickly and enable real-time updates throughout the organization's application estate.
iPaaS is also referred to as cloud integration or cloud-based integration.
The enterprise integration challenge
Enterprise integration has traditionally been a challenge for IT departments.
In the past, companies integrated their business processes through custom programming, enterprise middleware or enterprise application integration (EAI) implementations, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA). These solutions worked, but were expensive and time consuming to create. They also left companies susceptible to data silos, so that one part of the organization did not have visibility into another, creating inefficiencies when data needed to be shared.
Over the past decade, companies have rapidly transitioned to cloud services and the convenience of SaaS applications. With the vast number of SaaS applications being integrated within a single organization today, it has become unwieldy for IT departments to build customer programming, middleware, or other implementations for each of these offerings.
In addition, the expansion of network services, edge computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) has created further demand for rapid integration with a wide range of products. Companies today must be able to rapidly integrate data services that live on-premises, in private clouds, at the edge, and in multiple vendors’ public clouds.
How iPaaS works
Enter iPaaS. iPaaS provides a single toolset and a consistent process for data integration between all the apps in your enterprise, whether they’re on-premises or in the cloud.
The platform is hosted and managed by your cloud provider and offered as a service—you simply subscribe to the platform, choose the tools and services you need to configure and automate integration between applications, and get to work. The cloud provider handles the rest, including data governance, security, software patches, hardware management, and new feature updates whenever they become available. Pricing for iPaaS is structured as a monthly subscription fee or a pay-by-use rate.
Once implemented, the iPaaS providers offer a wide range of enterprise integration scenarios, including those for highly regulated industries. iPaaS supports real-time data exchange between SaaS apps, as well as between SaaS apps and other applications located in the cloud, SaaS and on-premises applications.
Benefits of iPaaS
Compared to traditional integration methods, iPaaS delivers these benefits:
Faster time to value: Operations and development teams can help themselves to iPaaS—they simply subscribe and start integrating.
Better integration results, with less work and fewer specialized skills: iPaaS typically offers intelligent work-saving tools and a high-productivity interface that can help users “punch above their weight” and achieve better, richer integrations in a short period of time--and without having to build new integration functionality each time.
Improved scalability: The self-service model of iPaaS scales easily as your integration needs grow.
Reduced integration costs: iPaaS solutions are typically much less expensive and time consuming than custom integrations, message-oriented middleware, and enterprise integration projects such as enterprise service bus (ESB) and enterprise application integration (EAI). The reduced cost and faster implementation make integration a possibility for more mid-sized and smaller businesses as well.
Improved connectivity: When processes and data are updated across applications throughout the organization, anyone can get the data they need when they need it.
Built-in API management: iPaaS eliminates the need to publish customer APIs or combine APIs from other services. It’s all in the iPaaS platform, creating a more scalable and secure solution for managing APIs.
Simplified and improved B2B integration: Every business has its own process for exchanging information with partners. Different applications used at different companies make it difficult to communicate. Businesses can use iPaaS to improve B2B integration and ultimately increase revenue and improve time to market.
iPaaS use cases
Companies today turn to enterprise iPaaS to more easily manage applications and data, quickly integrate legacy systems, and solve complex integration problems as they modernize applications. Common uses of iPaaS include:
Low-overhead application integration. With iPaaS tools, companies can more quickly and seamlessly create integrations than they could with an EAI, SOA or ESB. IPaaS vendors often offer interfaces that require less coding, present integrations visually, and include prebuilt connectors.
Seamless, silo-busting data synchronization across environments. By simplifying app-to-app integration, a iPaas solution eliminates the need for batch data transfers, and integrates data from on-premises and cloud applications in real-time as it us updated.
Integration of multiple devices. Organizations that need to integrate data between a number of different computing and IoT devices can use iPaaS to streamline the process. For example, an electricity supplier could use iPaaS to aggregate and analyze data collected from meters and instrumented devices located throughout the delivery system, from the distribution center to the customers' homes.
B2B integration opportunities. To ensure the secure and efficient flow of data between company and vendors, iPaaS eliminates the need to build code based on APIs or use EDIs. iPaaS offers self-service capabilities that provide easier partner access and makes onboarding partners and customers easier.
Integrations in highly regulated industries. In industries such as healthcare, pharma, and finance, iPaaS makes it easier to integrate data and systems quickly, cost-effectively, securely and in strict compliance with industry and government regulations.
iPaaS vs. ESB
Once essential for enterprise business, enterprise service bus (ESB) technology is no longer meeting the digital transformation needs of the modern business. Adopting iPaaS can complement existing ESB investments with a typically less-expensive, more-scalable, decentralized solution that enables enterprise integration of systems and data residing in the cloud or even with other vendors.
Additionally, as with current application development techniques that use microservices and containers to build apps in a more granular way, a container-based approach can be adopted for integration. iPaaS solutions that leverage containers enable you to break up your ESB into smaller pieces to gain even greater agility, scalability and resilience.
iPaaS vs. PaaS
iPaaS should not be confused with PaaS, or Platform-as-a-Service. PaaS provides a cloud-based environment with everything required to support the complete lifecycle of building and delivering web-based (cloud) applications—all without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software or having to handle provisioning and hosting.
iPaaS can supplement PaaS by providing the tools needed to integrate these web-based applications and the data that fuels them. Developers are often able to choose cloud-based integration tools from the service catalog for the PaaS solution they are using.
iPaaS and IBM Cloud®
iPaaS plays a key role for any organization undertaking application modernization as the demand for better customer experiences and more applications impacts business and IT operations. To meet such demands, a move toward greater automation will help. Ideally, it would start with small, measurably successful projects, which you can then scale and optimize for other processes and in other parts of your organization.
Working with IBM, you’ll have access to AI-powered automation capabilities, including prebuilt workflows, to help accelerate innovation by making every process more intelligent. IBM Cloud has designed a modern integration solution that is simple to provision and deploy in hybrid and multicloud environments.
Take the next step:
- Learn about IBM Cloud Pak® for Integration, which encompasses all aspects of integration, including messaging, event streaming and high-speed data transfer.
- Take our integration maturity assessment to evaluate your integration maturity level across critical dimensions and discover the actions you can take to get to the next level.
- Download our agile integration guide, which explores the merits of a container-based, decentralized, microservices-aligned approach for integrating solutions.
Get started with an IBM Cloud account today.