What is iPaaS?
iPaaS—for Integration-Platform-as-a-Service—is a cloud-hosted solution for integrating applications. iPaaS provides organizations a simplified, standardized way to connect applications, data, processes, and services across on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud environments without having to purchase, install, manage, and maintain the integration hardware, middleware, and software within their own data center.
According to the research firm Gartner (link resides outside IBM), iPaaS has been one of the fastest-growing enterprise software market segments since they began tracking it roughly eight years ago.
This isn’t surprising. Traditionally, integration was achieved either through vendor-provided or custom application-to-application (or point-to-point) solutions or through expensive enterprise middleware and/or lengthy (and expensive) enterprise application integration (EAI) implementations, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA). In the past decade, however, the pace of cloud adoption and subsequent ease with which organizations can adopt and develop applications has led to the following:
- An explosion in the volume, variety, and sources of data.
- A surging demand for applications that leverage data in real-time.
- An increasing need to integrate data and services that live on-premises, in private clouds, and in multiple vendors’ public clouds.
Traditional integration methods aren’t agile or scalable enough keep up with these demands. Today, organizations need a faster, easier, and more cost-effective way to integrate all their applications and data sources, wherever they reside.
Enter iPaaS. iPaaS provides a single toolset and a consistent process for moving data 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. IPaaS is typically available for a monthly subscription fee or a pay-by-use rate.
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. IPaaS supports the rapid pace of DevOps and agile application development cycles.
- Better integration results, with less work and fewer specialized skills: iPaaS typically offers intelligent worksaving 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.
- Improved scalability: iPaaS’s self-service model scales easily as your integration needs grow.
- Reduced integration costs: iPaaS solutions are typically less expensive than the licensing costs involved with message-oriented middleware, integration architectures, and other custom integrations like 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.
iPaaS capabilities to look for
At one time, iPaaS offerings fell into two distinct groups: Simpler, self-service integration tools designed for business users that don’t require advanced technical knowledge or skill; and tools that enable IT specialists to design and deploy advanced integration flows. Today, most offer the best of both and are suited the full range of potential users.
Must-haves for any iPaaS offering include the following:
- Support for a broad range of integration scenarios, including on-premises-to-cloud (public or private), private cloud-to-public cloud, and public cloud-to-public cloud integration; application-to-application and business-to-business integration; and specialized scenarios, such as mobile app integration and Internet of Things (IoT) integration.
- API-driven integration between on-premises systems of record and cloud-based systems of engagement.
- Integration with legacy middleware, including two-way integration with existing MQ enterprise messaging backbone.
- Authentication and access control for users based on existing on-premises user directories.
- Productivity tools, such as flow templates and preconfigured connectors, as well as tools for easily automating integrations and enriching them with artificial intelligence (AI).
For more on the state of iPaaS solutions today, check out the report "Who leads the iPaaS space?" where G2 Crowd compiles user feedback and determines which products lead the field based on user reviews and market presence scores.
iPaaS vs. ESB
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, businesses invested deeply in ESB (enterprise service bus) technology to support their SOA (service-oriented architecture) initiatives and on-premises integration efforts. However, ESB is not meeting the digital transformation needs of the modern business.
ESB is viewed as a heavyweight architecture that lacks agility. It is a heavily centralized approach that encompasses all of an enterprise’s integrations, but it cannot easily or quickly meet the individual needs of line-of-business teams to integrate cloud applications or data from sources outside the business.
iPaaS can complement existing ESB investments with a (typically) less-expensive, more-scalable, decentralized solution that enables the 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 allow 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, software, 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.
Learn more about PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS service models.
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.
When it comes to meeting 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.
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.