Gartner introduced the term Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) as “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”. iPaaS includes many of the following features:
- Integration flows that connect applications residing in the cloud and on-premises
- Native cloud deployment without installing and managing integration hardware
- Cloud features such as multitenancy, elasticity, and self-provisioning
- API developer self-service for rapid mobile and responsive web development
- Automated build and deploy
- Metered or subscription-based pricing
Since the introduction of iPaaS technology, vendors have continued to add features to the platforms – for example, master data management in the cloud, B2B integration, EDI managed services, A2A integration and API management. The use cases for iPaaS continue to expand as new functionality is added. If you have not looked at iPaaS lately, you might be surprised by the feature expansion.
Many companies start their iPaaS journey by developing an investment business case. The justification for iPaaS is often tied to Software as a Service (SaaS), hybrid cloud architecture and/or mobile integrations. With the rapid adoption of cloud computing and mobility the need for application integration is growing exponentially. iPaaS creates a cloud deployment model and addresses the needs of both technical and less-technical do-it-yourself (DIY) integrators.
In contrast, legacy middleware has a monolithic architecture, proprietary components, complex operating environments, and expensive licensing that require deep expertise to code and operate. The consequence of using a dated integration style greatly slows innovation by forcing integration through specialized software and staff. iPaaS integrations can be created rapidly without specialized staff, expensive software licenses and elaborate hardware configurations.
Metrics Used to Justify iPaaS
Here are some metrics typically used to justify iPaaS:
- Integration cost savings using out-of-the-box SaaS cloud connectors
- Improve innovation and agility
- Leverage API marketplace opportunities
- Speed integration development, provisioning and developer self-service
- Legacy integration / API cost reduction
- Deprecate redundant integrations and software
- Reduced downtime, improved quality of service
- Reduced maintenance costs
- Reduced skills and staff to support the integration platform
Selecting the Right iPaaS Product for Your Needs
Next, you need to pick the right iPaaS product for your needs. Strengths and weaknesses vary among vendors, for example one vendor does a great job with data management and another with DIY integration, so pick a vendor that best fits your integration strategy. Also look specifically at the application you need to integrate and the iPaaS products strengths and weaknesses there – for example you may want to integrate customer data from Saleforce.com with on-premises system where some vendors have predefined connectors, workflows and the ability to master customer data. There may also be predefined workflows to implement business process integrations like order to cash.
Building a requirements survey and product scorecard with the same criteria is a quick way to compare the products against your requirements. Here are some steps to help you select the right iPaaS software:
- Conduct interviews of current state integration platforms and processes
- Review of industry analyst iPaaS findings (Gartner and Forrester)
- Define and conduct iPaaS requirements survey
- Define platform feature scorecard with weightings based on the survey and rank by product
- Interview or survey product SMEs and score the products within the scorecard
- Score the products using the scorecard and industry analyst rankings
- Feature/Fit current state integration platform to integration reference architecture
- Document software platform recommendation and rationale
- RFPs (optional) and proof-of-concept finalists
- Price negotiations and terms and conditions
Once you select the right iPaaS tool for your integration platform you are ready to get started. There is no software to install on your servers or developer’s workstations so you can complete simple integrations very quickly. Basic ad-hoc integrations, like populating a data warehouse with customer data from Saleforce.com and refresh the data on a daily basis, can be setup very quickly with little planning and design.
More complicated integrations with many endpoints, like integrating your ERP and CRM systems, requires a more formal approach. Here are some steps to help you get started with more complex integrations:
- Create a template to capture the integration requirements
- Identify the applications and application owners to be integrated
- Identify related data governance and data access policies and people
- Interview stakeholders to gather data and process integration requirements
- Review integration standards and governance policies to adapt to iPaaS (e.g. API security)
- Document integration endpoints and data mappings
- Document data synchronization specifications – volume, frequency, protocol
- Design for data logging and exception handling scenarios
- Review security and compliance concerns
- Develop interface tests (e.g. service mockups)
- Build and test your interfaces (no environment to build and no deployments to create with iPaaS)
iPaaS provides an integration platform that is well suited for SaaS integrations and non-technical DIY integrators. iPaaS can also handle complex integrations that require detailed planning and design. As iPaaS feature sets continue to expand, the tools have evolved to solve problems traditionally done with legacy middleware.
Perficient has a consulting services and partnerships with all the leading vendors in the iPaaS space should you need any assistance with software selection, architecture or development of iPaaS integrations.