What is iPaaS?
iPaaS is a cloud-based solution that allows for the efficient integration of applications and their data. It's a very specific variation on the platform as a service (PaaS) model.
Also sometimes called a cloud integration platform or a hybrid integration platform, iPaaS serves as the infrastructure for creating connections between essential apps and deploying those apps within the cloud. An iPaaS-driven integration can unite an organization's cloud apps, provide connections between the organization and its third-party partners, bridge the gap between cloud-hosted and on-premises apps, or do all of the above.
iPaaS is a successor of—and viable alternative to—older integration strategies such as the hub-and-spoke method, the enterprise service bus (ESB) or enterprise application integration (EAI). By allowing for easier data sharing and greater interoperability, iPaaS helps enterprises become more efficient and agile.
How does iPaaS work?
Many tech companies—including all of the major cloud service providers (CSPs)—have iPaaS offerings in their product catalogs.
Enterprise customers who adopt an iPaaS solution start by choosing the tools and services within the platform that meet their specific integration needs. Application program interface (API) management and direct app integration are the most common functions of iPaaS, but the solution can also help with integrating data, IoT devices, clouds, DevOps platforms, microservices, and more.
Overseeing direct tasks is the responsibility of the iPaaS customer. But just about everything else—day-to-day management, updates, security patches, data governance, scaling resources up and down, and so on—is handled by the CSP or other iPaaS vendor. This combination of the freedom to focus on core business functions and the flexibility to integrate many different types of resources makes iPaaS ideal for enterprises that need a truly custom integration to meet their organizational needs.
Use cases for an iPaaS system
Because iPaaS is still a relatively new solution, the best way to understand how it works on a day-in, day-out basis is by looking at its successful deployments in specific industries. Here are some notable examples:
Optimizing e-commerce and sales
Creating an online shop that runs as smoothly as a brick-and-mortar retail outlet requires a variety of different apps to be perfectly connected. iPaaS gives businesses the ability to do exactly that.
Consider an e-commerce page that has a clickable button reading "Buy with one-click." For that one-click purchase to be a viable option, integration between the company's customer database and its third-party payment processors must be seamless. The transaction also requires an API that delivers address information to the logistics and order fulfillment side of the company's operation by converting it into coordinates. iPaaS can make all of that happen.
iPaaS can also bring greater automation to the B2B sales process. For example, when email validation and contact enrichment tools are integrated with sales automation software via iPaaS, it's easier for sales reps to make sure prospective leads receive the right personalized messaging at the right time.
Simplifying industrial facilities management
To maintain a robust production output in most modern manufacturing plants and industrial facilities, a wide variety of different applications and systems must work together. That's before even taking the manufacturing equipment into account.
- Sensor devices attached to equipment help monitor performance and keep track of machine health. These form the bedrock of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also called Industry 4.0.
- Industrial control system (ICS) platforms directly control equipment function.
- Enterprise asset management (EAM) tools help maintenance staff keep track of work orders based on priority, safety requirements, and other factors.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) modules in platforms like Microsoft Dynamics help to supervise purchasing, operations, financials, customer service, and many other tasks.
Imagine if data could flow seamlessly between all of these devices and systems, despite the many technical differences between them and the various data formats being used. iPaaS gives manufacturers the ability to set up the application integration that makes such interoperability possible.
By using iPaaS to custom-manage the integration, there's no need to use multiple SaaS tools—some of which might not work well in industrial settings with legacy systems. This lets the organization achieve major digital transformation without going through a complete overhaul.
Uniting disparate healthcare systems
In any area of healthcare, it's crucial that doctors, nurses, other caregivers, and administrative personnel always have the right patient info at their fingertips.
But many modern hospitals and healthcare facilities have a disparate mix of cutting-edge and legacy devices, applications, and systems. Add to this the fact that healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries—with regulations that include strict data privacy and governance requirements—and integration begins to look like a major challenge.
That's where iPaaS comes in. With its ability to unite apps and data, manage API connections in multiple clouds and on-premises infrastructure, and let users build new apps when necessary, the platform is the stable integration foundation healthcare organizations need.
Streamlining digital agency operations
Digital agencies—enterprises that offer marketing services, website and app development, creative services, and more under one roof—juggle operations across multiple business units. These departments often use a wide variety of apps and systems to manage their daily operations, which creates silos across the business.
Every time agencies with these disparate ecosystems add a new client to their portfolio, it's a time-intensive process to update each app to reflect the addition—unless the agency is using iPaaS to manage the integration process. The platform can help bring consistency across multiple CRMs, enrichment tools, billing solutions, and other critical apps. This way, digital agencies can maintain highly customized and detailed profiles to better serve their clients.
Benefits and challenges of iPaaS
Enterprises that effectively use iPaaS tools have the chance to enjoy a number of benefits in both the near and long term. However, they should also be mindful of the potential challenges that can arise from a poorly planned deployment of the solution.
5 Key iPaaS benefits
1. Easy setup and implementation
Business users don't have to be experts in multiple cloud-based services to implement an integration strategy with an iPaaS platform. The tools in most iPaaS suites are intuitive and highly automated, which helps complete integrations faster and more efficiently.
2. Potential DevOps improvements
By giving developers access to a tool designed to unite apps and systems across an enterprise, iPaaS allows them to more easily integrate and implement their apps throughout the organization.
3. Improved data sharing
With integration as seamless as what iPaaS enables, departments can obtain the data they need on demand from other business units whenever critical enterprise projects make this necessary. Data silos can be all but eradicated.
4. Simpler scalability
As a company grows, the cloud-hosted iPaaS platform can easily be scaled up to accommodate increasingly complex integrations, even when merging with or acquiring other organizations.
5. Reduced costs
Because completing an integration with iPaaS is faster with iPaaS than it might be if using middleware, ESBs, EAIs, or other methods, and because all processes are handled through the iPaaS solution, this integration approach may drive overall costs down. Also, because iPaaS can often offer high availability, the low downtime helps keep productivity up.
Potential iPaaS challenges
- Suitability for niche needs: iPaaS is meant to be an out-of-the-box solution—at least to start. So although there are domain-specific iPaaS tools out on the market, it may be difficult for enterprises with highly specific integration needs or from truly niche industries to find the right solution. Using multiple iPaaS products may be necessary.
- Crowded market: Because an enterprise might need more than one iPaaS, the broad availability of multiple solutions could make it harder to choose the right option. Careful research is critical, and input from stakeholders across the organization will be valuable.
- Skills requirements: Although non-expert business users can handle the essential operations of iPaaS, truly complex integrations—or those for which compliance is a major concern—may still be beyond them. It'll be important to have IT and data teams either supervise or review integrations begun by iPaaS novices.
- Security concerns: This is an area where integrations by non-specialists may be particularly vulnerable because they haven't been trained in security practices like API logging and role-based access control (RBAC). iPaaS providers don't handle those areas. Also, although the iPaaS provider oversees various other security aspects, they can't be held liable for any security breaches that occur.
How to maximize the value of iPaaS
It's critical to have an application and data integration plan in place before searching for iPaaS suppliers.
These three steps can help you plan for success:
- Have a specific goal, whether that's eliminating data silos in certain departments through better data sharing or strengthening API connections between sales and marketing apps.
- Know exactly which applications and systems need to be integrated, where the associated data lives, and how it should flow.
- Do your research. Some providers are better for companies that want the integration to be mostly DIY. Others take as much out of customers' hands as possible. Also, some use open-source software, while others use original SaaS tools from the provider or a combination of both. More than one platform may be necessary to craft a proper integration solution.
Once iPaaS is implemented, data must be carefully managed—and Vantage, Teradata's data analytics platform that unites cloud and on-premises data resources, is just the tool for this purpose.
Learn more by reviewing Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant reports, highlighting Vantage's status as a leading-edge database management system (DBMS) across multiple use cases.
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