According to the IT glossary hosted by Gartner, the analyst firm that coined the term, “Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.”*
TechTarget offers a similar, but more succinct definition: “Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a set of cloud-based tools that enables software engineers to deploy, manage, govern and integrate applications and services.”
Either definition is a lot to take in so let’s take a moment to unpack them. First and foremost, iPaaS is an integration solution that is delivered from the public cloud. It’s a member of the PaaS family, which is broadly described by TechTarget as a cloud computing model that delivers hardware and software tools—usually those needed for application development—to its users as a service.
As such, there is no on-premises hardware or software that must be installed or maintained in order to implement iPaaS—these are maintained by the cloud provider. The exception to this is if you intend to use iPaaS for hybrid integration (i.e. integration between on-premises and cloud applications or end points), in which case the iPaaS vendor would likely install a software agent to enable secure communication between on-premises systems and the iPaaS environment.
According to Gartner’s March 2017 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service report, iPaaS functionality typically includes the following:
- Communication protocol connectors (FTP, HTTP, AMQP, MQTT, Kafka, AS1/2/3/4, etc.)
- Application connectors/adapters for SaaS and on-premises packaged applications
- Data formats (XML, JSON, ASN.1, etc.)
- Data standards (EDIFACT, HL7, SWIFT, etc.)
- Data mapping and transformation
- Data quality
- Routing and orchestration
- Integration flow development and life cycle management tools
- Integration flow operational monitoring and management
- Full life cycle API management
A (Brief) History of iPaaS
iPaaS made its appearance around 2011 in response to businesses’ growing adoption of cloud infrastructures, platforms, and applications. It provided a means to connect various cloud applications, something that more traditional on-premises integration solutions such as enterprise services buses (ESBs) could not do.
As iPaaS evolved, it grew into a broader integration platform capable of not only cloud to cloud integration, but also of bridging the divide between on-premises and cloud applications, a form of integration often referred to as hybrid integration.
iPaaS, although modernized to support cloud technologies, is largely built upon the same do-it-yourself integration model and pre-built adapters approach of legacy on-premises integration applications. In fact, many iPaaS solutions are offered by ESB vendors looking to extend the relevance of their decades-old integration paradigms.
Today, iPaaS is most frequently used by businesses to supplement the weaknesses of their existing on-premises integration solutions, which are typically unable to elegantly handle cloud integration or respond to today’s fast-paced data landscape with the agility required. It should be noted, however, that ESBs are evolving to take on more and more of the capabilities of iPaaS in order to remain competitive.
In its 2017 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service report, Gartner “estimates that the enterprise iPaaS market continued to expand notably during 2016, approaching $700 million in revenue and growing around 60% in terms of providers’ subscription revenue when compared to 2015. … Other integration technology markets, such as message-oriented middleware, managed file transfer and enterprise service bus, all saw single-digit growth or less in 2016.”
The Pros and Cons of iPaaS
Like any solution an enterprise considers, iPaaS must be evaluated within the context of the unique situation it’s being applied to. Next are some general pros and cons worth considering when deciding whether iPaaS is right for your organization.
- Support for modern messaging and document formats such as REST and JSON for lightweight communications with APIs
- IoT awareness
- “Easy” self-service connector tools that enable non-IT business unit members to build straightforward application-to-application (A2A) integrations
- All the benefits of a multi-tenant public cloud service: agility, scalability, reduced IT overhead, economies of scale, and so on
- Security concerns similar to those that currently accompany all public cloud solutions
- Requires specialized developer talent (at a time of increasing data complexity and decreasing skills availability)
- Questionable compliance profile as stakeholders outside the realm of IT unknowingly configure integrations that don’t meet the compliance standards of regulated data such as PII (personally identifiable information), PHI (personal health information), or PCI (payment card data)
iPaaS isn’t an enterprise’s only option for integrating cloud services and applications. Other modern solutions exist such as the Liaison ALLOY™ Platform, which takes an entirely new approach to integration—the first one the industry’s seen in decades.
Like iPaaS, ALLOY helps enterprises integrate ever-growing numbers of cloud applications and data sources. But ALLOY additionally features four game-changing capabilities that fundamentally advance the traditional integration paradigm to address the true challenges facing enterprises today.
ALLOY’s unique capabilities include:
- Integration delivered as fully managed services to free your enterprise’s IT resources for more strategic tasks
- Continuous data compliance that dynamically expands as use of the platform expands
- Comprehensive data management capabilities that cleanse, harmonize, and consolidate data in a central big data repository for business intelligence and analytics purposes
- Cutting-edge technologies including microservices, containers, and big data architecture that allow us to design custom sets of cohesive services by layering in capabilities such as tokenization, data management, API access, or streaming integration
View our iPaaS + video to learn more about Liaison’s “beyond iPaaS” approach to integration.
*Gartner IT Glossary, Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/information-platform-as-a-service-ipaas