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What is iPaaS? | A Complete Guide to Integration Platform as a Service

What is iPaaS?

Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based suite of tools, hosted by a third-party provider, that enables organisations to integrate, automate and manage applications, business systems and data that reside in different business environments, whether on-premises or in public or private clouds.

As a fully managed service, iPaaS delivers a cost-effective and standardised way to connect these disparate applications, systems and services without having to purchase, deploy and manage typical enterprise middleware solutions on site.

Pre-built connectors, business rules and processes are included within iPaaS technology to make enterprise application integration and cloud integration extremely easy to deploy, deliver business continuity, help reduce costs and remove the need for constant maintenance.

iPaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

There are numerous ‘as a service’ offerings available, all of which are cloud-based. iPaaS should not be confused with PaaS, which is a completely different type of platform.

What is PaaS?

Platform as a service (PaaS) provides organisations and developers with an environment to build and roll out cloud-based applications and services. A PaaS is hosted by a provider meaning that organisations do not have to incur the costs of the hardware, hosting, software and tools.

Common PaaS characteristics include:

  • Cloud-based user interface
  • Tools and services to develop, test, deploy, host and maintain applications
  • Multi-tenancy architecture
  • Ability to assign user roles and permissions
  • Define and customise workflows
  • Automated data backup
  • Built-in data validation
  • Securely hosted

As they are both hosted, cloud-based platforms, iPaaS and PaaS are a perfect fit. Once an application has been built, iPaaS cloud integration can easily and cost effectively provide the tools and business processes for developers to integrate their applications with any other application, system or service that they require. Once integrated, they can then easily create the data workflows to fully incorporate the new application into an organisation.

What is SaaS?

Obviously, iPaaS works similarly with any SaaS (software as a service) application.

SaaS applications are hosted and provided by a cloud service provider and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, with users accessing the application over the internet. This makes SaaS applications very appealing to organisations as they don’t have to pay for the hardware, storage, maintenance or upgrades, meaning they save time, money and resources.

Common SaaS features include:

  • Subscription-based license model
  • Hosted and maintained by vendor
  • Multi-tenancy model
  • Easy customisation
  • Scaled up or down on demand
  • Automatic updates
  • Accessible from multiple devices

With SaaS applications being cloud-based and hosted by a third-party provider, iPaaS can easily integrate SaaS applications and streamline data flows with on-premises and legacy systems, as well as any other web service or business application required.

Why iPaaS?

The visibility of data generated throughout an organisation is essential for efficiency and exploiting new opportunities or recognising threats. At enterprise level this is even more critical.

Whereas businesses used to rely upon one single system to operate, the plethora of software that is now available means that different departments tend to adopt applications and software that are specific to their requirements and tasks that they need to perform.

Whilst these apps and software can improve the efficiency for a department more and more data is being generated and stored in disparate locations creating data silos. This can cause issues regarding sales and accounting processes, prevents an organisation having a true, holistic view of company data, can create inefficiencies between departments, as well as increases the risk of data errors.

This scenario is enhanced further when, for example, an organisation buys another business which is using completely different software, or the business includes multiple subsidiary organisations in different locations. The potential for data loss or disjointed information is vastly increased.

Cloud adoption

Cloud is also completely changing the way that organisations operate and conduct business. With many implementing digital transformation strategies to stay competitive, it has significantly affected the approach that businesses take with software, with many increasingly adopting and using cloud-based software and services.

In many organisations these days it is not uncommon to find that they are using a mixture of ‘as a service’ platforms and solutions, including:

  • Software as a service (SaaS) solutions: Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, HubSpot, Zendesk etc.
  • Public clouds: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud etc.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): an environment for developers and companies to create, host and deploy applications
  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): storage, server and networking resources

These cloud solutions are cost effective, provide scalability and flexibility, and are easy to roll out and adopt. In fact, IT departments are often not involved with their purchase and installation, with individuals or other departments able to easily deploy them once approved by management. This has been widely accepted at the ‘Consumerisation of the Enterprise.

These apps and cloud solutions are constantly evolving and being updated, with alternative, competing solutions appearing regularly. In a cloud environment this makes it extremely easy to chop and change between these applications, services and systems. However, this further exacerbates the potential for data silos and the issue of managing the variety, volume and sources of data in an efficient way.

The integration of all these business applications, services and systems, whether on-premises, in private clouds or in multiple public clouds, is essential. Organisations therefore need to have an agile, scalable, yet cost effective method to keep up with these demands.

In keeping with this move to these ‘as a service’ solutions and the increasing dependency on cloud, iPaaS provides a flexible, cost effective route to integrating the various systems in place and synchronising the data between them. It is an integral component for any organisation’s business process automation strategy and future business strategies.

Multi-cloud environments and their integration must be fully managed in order to synchronise, store and have the ability to analyse the data wherever it is located within the business. iPaaS enables organisations to improve the consistency and flow of data throughout the company at relatively little expense or effort.

Download Codeless Platforms' iPaaS Brochure

iPaaS vs ESB

First making an appearance between 1998 and 2002, an enterprise service bus (ESB) is a bus-like architecture – a communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer, or between computers – that helps integrate diverse applications and services in an enterprise. An ESB usually incorporates a messaging engine, data integration and routing capabilities, web services, and analytics capabilities.

For large organisations, an ESB was an essential investment for connecting applications and transferring data. It was ideal for integrating on-premises legacy systems and applications in a highly complex service-oriented architecture (SOA) – which is related to the idea of an application programming interface (API). An API can be thought of as the service, and the SOA the architecture that allows the service to operate.

Despite being an integral middleware integration solution for many organisations, ESBs are now becoming cumbersome and heavyweight, lacking the agility and flexibility that this new cloud era demands; and this is where iPaaS surpasses it.

Whereas an ESB is adept at handling an enterprise’s complex on-premises internal systems and architecture, it cannot support multi-tenancy – the ability to run on a single service and connect with third-parties, partners and SaaS solutions – which iPaaS does.

Additionally, an ESB is a large, time-consuming investment, especially compared to the lightweight, flexibility and ease of deploying an iPaaS platform. ESB also tends to be to slow, requires high configuration and maintenance, and really isn’t geared up to integrate cloud solutions.

ESB vs iPaaS

What are the differences between an ESB and iPaaS?

ESB iPaaS
On-premises Cloud-based
Expensive Cost effective
Upfront investment Subscription-based model
Heavyweight Lightweight
Single-tenancy Multi-tenancy
Slow Quick
High maintenance Low maintenance

How does iPaaS work?

iPaaS is a dedicated cloud integration platform hosted by a third-party provider in a public or private cloud. The platform will include a range of solutions, pre-built connectors and automation tools that can connect any application, service or database. This creates a central ecosystem for businesses to view, control and modify all data workflows, as well as the infrastructure of the business.

As the iPaaS provider is responsible for all maintenance, upgrades, security and reliability of the platform, a company purchasing an iPaaS platform only has to concentrate on the configurations, mappings and business processes that they want to automate, enabling the business to focus on its core business activities.

When an organisation expands and grows, having an iPaaS integration platform means that it can easily add and connect new systems or services, as well as request further functionality and support for custom application features without incurring extravagant costs.

iPaaS capabilities and functionality

iPaaS provides a fully managed, multi-tenant solution that can connect and integrate a variety of applications, data and processes in real time and in practically any combination across all operating environments, whether on-premises or in the cloud. This helps organisations future-proof business systems and processes, deliver data consistency and increase company performance and ROI.

Cloud-to-cloud integration

One of the main reasons that organisations are looking for a cloud-based integration platform is the rise in individuals and departments adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) applications to perform specific tasks. They are usually cost effective, easy to install and provide the flexibility that businesses require. In fact, SaaS will probably be the default environment in the future for many organisations, if it isn’t already. iPaaS cloud integration is therefore essential in this scenario, helping to connect disparate cloud-based applications and synchronise all the data held within.

On-premises to cloud integration (hybrid cloud integration)

Despite the rise in SaaS adoption, many organisations will still want on-premises software or be reliant on older, legacy systems, especially if they have significantly invested in their deployment and development. The advantage that enterprise iPaaS technology has is that it can easily connect these systems as well, providing the ability to create a hybrid cloud integration environment.

This means that data held within cloud-based applications can be shared with on-premises software, and vice versa. This not only provides data consistency across the organisation, but it can also extend the lifespan of legacy systems and increase their functionality. It also creates an environment that makes it easy for organisations to transition between on-premises and cloud software, which is key in this era of digital transformation.

On-premises to on-premises integration

Even though cloud integration is the driving force for iPaaS, on-premises to on-premises integration is still a fundamental requirement for many organisations. As you’d might expect, iPaaS software is fully capable of proving this as well, and can be a flexible, cost effective alternative to regular data integration solutions.

What is iPaaS Complete guide tois integration platform as a service

Image: A typical scenario using iPaaS to integrate on-premises with cloud-based applications and services

iPaaS examples and use cases

iPaaS provides a stable and flexible cloud-based integration platform for creating, deploying, scaling, and managing integration scenarios across multiple business systems, applications and data sources, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Common iPaaS examples include:

Application to application integration

Using a range of APIs or pre-built connectors, iPaaS can easily connect disparate applications and data stores in multitenancy environments to create automated data flows.

  • ERP integration: Access Dimensions, Advanced, Epicor, Exact, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Oracle, Sage, SAP Business One, SAP Business ByDesign, SYSPRO, Unit4 etc.
  • eCommerce integration: Big Commerce, EKM, Linnworks, Magento, PrestaShop, Shopify, Shopware, Volo, Volusion, WooCommerce etc.
  • CRM integration: Agile CRM, ConnectWise, Infor, Maximizer CRM, Sage CRM, Salesforce etc.
  • Accounting integration: Creditsafe, KashFlow, Sage 50, SAP Concur, Xero, Zoho Books
  • Marketplace integration: Amazon, eBay, OnBuy, Wayfair etc.
  • Marketing integration: CommuniGator, dotdigital, Eventbrite, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Marketo, Mozenda, Spotler etc.
  • Warehouse management integration: Dexterity, Transalis OpenEDI, .WMS etc.
  • Courier services integration: DHL, DPD, FedEx, Hermes, Interlink Express, MetaPack, ParcelBroker, Parcelforce, ShipStation, SmartFreight, TNT, UPS etc.
  • Database integration: custom databases, legacy systems etc.
  • Payment system integration: Digital River, GoCardless, PayPal, Sage Pay, Stripe, Worldpay etc.
  • Data warehousing integration: from legacy on-premises systems to cloud data warehousing
  • Government services: Companies House, EORI, Land Registry, VIES VAT etc.

Multitenancy cloud integration

Connect, manage and synchronise multiple public cloud systems and services with other cloud products and services, offered by SaaS and PaaS providers, to improve the flow of data that exists in multiple locations and in potentially different formats.

B2B integration

Increase the speed of onboarding customers and partners by integrating with their business systems, no matter where they are located or the business systems they use. Data transfers can be fully automated in a secure environment to improve efficiencies and streamline customer service.

Microservices integration

Integrate and manage complex microservices to ensure consistency of data across the organisation. Benefit from using reusable pre-built connectors to generate and produce APIs quickly to support microservices environments.

Platform integration

Integrate a full range of platforms, whether on-premises or in public or private clouds, including technology platforms (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure), marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, OnBuy) eCommerce platforms (Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce), marketing platforms (HubSpot), utility platforms, on-demand service platforms, content distribution platforms, database platforms, application platforms, storage platforms or web platforms.

Data management

Convert, transform and synchronise data from multiple systems and locations. The source data can be comprised of any object that can carry data, such as CSV files, record sets, XML and JSON documents, variables, formulas, functions or constants.

The Benefits and advantages of iPaaS

As iPaaS is hosted in the cloud by an external provider it removes many of the costs usually associated with data integration and business process automation. All the tools and connectors are hosted, upgraded and maintained by the vendor meaning that organisations can concentrate on core business strategies.

  • Reduced costs: iPaaS technology is usually cheaper than middleware solutions and works on a subscription basis, therefore removing sometimes expensive upfront costs.
  • Rapid deployment: Remove the need for bespoke development and coding – simply subscribe and start integrating applications, loading data, automating business processes, migrating users, and incorporating the application into the organisation.
  • Reduced resources: Reduce the amount of time and number of personnel concentrating on system integration and data migration.
  • Better results: Gain immediate access to powerful integration and automation tools.
  • Improved scalability: Easily add new applications and tweak business processes as the business grows.
  • Flexibility and scope: Ability to deploy in cloud, hybrid or on-premises environments.
  • Centralised management: Once central ecosystem to manage integrations, processes and workflows.
  • Data visibility: iPaaS can provide better visibility and management of data flows via real-time integration.
  • Future-proofed: iPaaS provides an environment that can expand the lifespan of legacy systems and protect future upgrade paths.
  • Improved decision making: With access to real-time data across an organisation, employees and management can make better decisions to help improve efficiencies.
  • Enhanced security: Responsibility lies with the vendor, plus additional monitoring, threat detection and observation tools can easily be applied.
  • ROI: iPaaS can help businesses drive company revenue and go to market quicker.

iPaaS best practices – what to look for

An iPaaS platform must be able to offer the full mix 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. It may also include mobile app integration and Internet of Things (IoT) integration.

Other essential criteria to look out for include:

Flexible integration: A competent and powerful iPaaS suite must be able to recognise and integrate with a wide range of application programming interfaces (APIs), including the ability to integrate with legacy systems.

Data management: The ability to handle all data – from reading and writing to converting different file formats, such as XML, JSON etc. Data should also be processed in real time, and the platform should be able to handle batch data.

Powerful tools: Proven array of pre-built connectors and business process automation tools
Ease of use: Intuitive design and user experience (UX) for both applying integration and managing business processes.

Support: iPaaS should be able to support protocols such as HTTP, FTP, Open Data Protocol and Advanced Messaging Queuing Protocol.

Security: Powerful authentication, access control, data encryption and single sign-on integrations.

Codeless Platforms’ iPaaS Solution

Codeless Platforms’ iPaaS is developed specifically for channel partners and enterprise customers to create and manage data integration and automation as a service to internal and external customers.

Cloud, Hybrid or On-Premises
Create new ways of working and deploy integrations in cloud, hybrid and on-premises environments.

Centrally Managed
Working from one, centralised ecosystem enables employees and management to gain full control over all aspects of integration, business process automation and data control.

Codeless Platforms’ iPaaS tool capabilities include:

  • Drag and drop integration between cloud-based and on-premises systems and applications so that integration steps are visually represented within a wider automated process
  • Innovative transformation functions that can be dragged onto the mapping area to change the data between inputs and outputs
  • RESTful web service integration by removing the need for bespoke development
  • SOAP web services integration
  • Support OData and SData services

Compatibility
Compatible with both AWS and Microsoft Azure for cloud and hybrid deployments.

Robust Data Security
Stay protected with all the required features you need to connect to any environment securely and reliably.

For more information on how iPaaS can help your business, download the brochure below or call us on +44(0) 330 99 88 700.

Frequently Asked Questions

Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based suite of tools, hosted by a third-party provider, that enables organisations to integrate, automate and manage applications, business systems and data that reside in different business environments, whether on-premises or in public or private clouds.
There are numerous ‘as a service’ offerings available, all of which are cloud-based. iPaaS should not be confused with PaaS, which is a completely different type of platform. Platform as a service (PaaS) provides organisations and developers with an environment to build and roll out cloud-based applications and services. SaaS applications are hosted and provided by a cloud service provider and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, with users accessing the application over the internet. As they are all cloud-based, iPaaS can easily integrate PaaS and SaaS applications.
iPaaS provides a stable and flexible cloud-based integration platform for creating, deploying, scaling, and managing integration scenarios across multiple business systems, applications and data sources, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
iPaaS is a dedicated cloud integration platform hosted by a third-party provider in a public or private cloud. The platform will include a range of solutions, pre-built connectors and automation tools that can connect any application, service or database. This creates a central ecosystem for businesses to view, control and modify all data workflows, as well as the infrastructure of the business.

iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) Brochure

iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) Brochure

Codeless Platforms’ iPaaS is developed specifically for channel partners and enterprise customers to create and manage data automation and integration as a service to internal and external customers.

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