What is an Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS)?

Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) solutions have become increasingly common over the past few years. Dizmo is among them, as a patented iPaaS with an IoT-spin. So, why has iPaaS become popular, and what are they? 

Why iPaaS, why have they become so popular?

If you are struggling with a growing collection of incompatible applications, then you are not alone. One of the challenges that iPaaS aims to solve for organizations is the adoption of expanding groups of applications that do not work together. iPaaS lets you consolidate a variety of previously separate, siloed, and on-premise capabilities into one cloud platform. In fact, iPaaS introduces several opportunities for increased efficiency in, for example, analytics and factory maintenance. There are also financial benefits, as the as-a-service model lowers IT operation costs and moves expenditures from CAPEX to OPEX. The combination of benefits makes iPaaS attractive to both large and midsize organizations.

Illustration of what iPaaS is with dizmo
Bring integrations to life in the dizmo iPaaS interface

However, what is an iPaaS? The tech explained for the nontechnical party.

An iPaaS solution is a suite of cloud services that allow integration flows between endpoints to be developed, executed, and governed. The endpoints themselves can be any combination of on-premise or cloud-based processes, services, applications, and data — within an individual or across multiple organizations. The best part: these endpoints can connect in one single platform. 

Above, we used some wordings that might or might not be familiar. Endpoint is one example of terminology that is given new meaning when discussed in the context of iPaaS.

Endpoints are elements that receive or send messages from or to external resources. (In some cases, they may both receive and send messages.) For example, the resource could be an application programming interface (API). An API endpoint is the end of a communication channel between, on the one hand, the API, and on the other hand, a connecting software component. Both the API-to-software contact and the software-to-API contact are considered to be endpoints. 

However, in the iPaaS sphere, you will hear more about connectors than endpoints. That is because these are the platform-specific endpoints provided by vendors. In short, an iPaaS is a platform solution where it is possible to develop and manage connected endpoints (that is, integrations) in one single place.

One aspect that will impact how rare or expensive a connector is, is the complexity of extracting data from one system and then transforming and loading it into another. That is the ETL, short for Extract, Transform and Load, process. Especially data mapping, or reconstructing the relationships between different types of data so that they may fit into other software, can be hard. It might also be easy, depending on how similar the structure of your data was, to begin with. Nonetheless, it will impact the availability of connectors. Don’t worry though; most iPaaS vendors will let you build your connectors too.

What is the difference from other as-a-service solutions?

With the rise of the service economy and the lines blurring between applications and integrations, and platforms and software, you will sometimes see the expression “anything as a service” (xPaaS or XaaS). Still, here is a list that defines iPaaS in relation to other as-a-services:

iPaaS vs. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS may be considered the larger framework of services that iPaaS exists within. Therefore, we will put some extra emphasis on these.

iPaaS vs. Software-as-a-Service: SaaS is software that, according to Gartner, is designed to deliver complete business capabilities. It is most often owned, delivered, and managed remotely as an embedded platform. It’s often cloud-based and may include customization, integration or extension capabilities and are commonly offered on a pay-per-use or subscription basis. iPaaS may be utilized to integrate SaaS offerings. Also, SaaS may provide pre-built capabilities that are included in an iPaaS to enhance it. iPaaS is often highlighted as useful for developers tackling integration tasks, but SaaS may offer API and event capabilities appreciated by application developers.

iPaaS vs. Platform-as-a-Service: The versus here is slightly misleading as iPaaS is a subset of PaaS, and there is an extensive taxonomy of types of PaaS. PaaS will help you if you do not want to install and maintain a development environment locally. Instead, contact a service provider that offers a cloud development platform. Most prominently, iPaaS and PaaS overlap in the aspect that most iPaaS vendors will allow you to develop your connectors.

iPaaS vs. Infrastructure-as-a-Service: IaaS provides you with infrastructure. For example, hardware, computing, and storage resources. An iPaaS should, of course, to some extent, offer computing and storage resources. However, it will not be at the same level as a pure IaaS. IaaS also provides the foundation of most platforms, and iPaaS is commonly deployed on IaaS. IaaS also have some limitations. It contrasts with PaaS as a low-level service, and high-level software such as an operating system are usually not provided. Buyers have to provide their OS by themselves, as well as any applications.

iPaaS versus other platforms and integration solutions

The cloud xPaaS ecosystem is growing and converging. There is a multitude of different cloud services that can be difficult to differentiate from each other as a buyer. These are some of the terms that you may come across.

iPaaS vs. Enterprise Integration Platforms-as-a-Service: An eiPaaS is an iPaaS that has the capability to support enterprise-class integration projects. The overlap is substantial, but ultimately, the requirements for an eiPaaS are more demanding.

iPaaS vs. Application-Platforms-as-a-Service: An aPaaS provides a cloud-based environment to build, test, deploy, and maintain applications. Similarly, iPaaS and aPaaS are both sub-categories of PaaS.

iPaaS vs. Integration-Software-as-a-Service: While iPaaS serves a broad audience, iSaaS is meant for citizen integrators. Citizen integrators may configure connectors, but they will not build them from scratch. Still, iSaaS offers core application and data integration capabilities.

Trend alert: overlapping capabilities

We are often asked why you should use an iPaaS instead of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). ESB and iPaaS are separate in the kind of systems they integrate the best. An ESB focuses more heavily on on-premise technology; that is, not cloud integrations. However, Hybrid Integration Platforms (HIP) allow integration between on-premise and cloud endpoints. In short, iPaaS and EBS are converging. In 2019, many iPaaS’s can support on-premise systems and EBS cloud services. A HIP supports a broader range of integration requirements and users.

For whom is iPaaS made?

iPaaS generally gains the most interest from developers and IT business unit managers. That is partly because vendors commonly provide platforms that are perceived to require a more in-depth knowledge of, for example, SQL and Java. People in these roles also more often think strategically about the increasing number of applications that are being used in businesses today. If your professional role includes creating integrations that will be used by several other people — iPaaS may be an option.

However, iPaaS is of interest to people with various levels of integration expertise. An iPaaS may also, for example, market itself towards the most common end-users: citizen integrators. Who these integrators are and how dizmo plays into their roles, you will learn in our upcoming blog post.

Find out more about the different iPaaS use-cases that dizmo has worked with either on our customer’s page or in the video gallery.

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