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The meaning of iPaaS is integration platform as a service. A cloud-based software solution, it helps companies integrate applications—but is it the best choice?

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Understanding the Meaning of iPaaS (and When to Use It)

Posted by Angela Davis on November 8, 2023

If you’re looking for a cloud-based integration solution for digital transformation, it is essential to understand the meaning of iPaaS.

The acronym iPaaS stands for integration platform as a service. An iPaaS solution can be defined as a cloud-based solution that supports the connection of business apps for sharing data across an integrated network. Hybrid integration platforms, like OpenLegacy, also let you connect cloud-based apps to on-premise systems.

A good iPaaS vendor will provide unprecedented data connectivity that is straightforward and easily customized. This can speed up connectivity, improve workflows, and break data silos down for smooth and free-flowing information exchanges.

Intrigued? Let us tell you how it works. 

What is iPaaS? 

Exploring what iPaaS stands for can help us understand what it means. 

Integration

An iPaaS service takes data from where it’s collected or stored (e.g. apps, databases, CRMs like Salesforce, social media logs, and so on) and integrates it into a centralized platform.  

This unites all the data you need in one, convenient location. Because none of it is lost in obscure apps, you don’t have to waste time rifling through various databases to find what you’re looking for. 

Platform

The best iPaaS software provides  an intuitive ecosystem that allows you to find, analyze, integrate, and draw insights from data across your operation. Importantly, it is not a data store: it serves as the connector between the systems that hold the data. 

As a service

iPaaS vendors work on a subscription basis. You don’t need to install your own on-premise platform. Instead, it’s based in the cloud and run by a vendor. 

This means you can access the services  anywhere and at any time. It also means you can choose the subscription terms that best suit you and leave things like software architecture and updates to the vendor. 

What is iPaaS software composed of?

So, we know what iPaaS is and what it does, but what’s the system actually composed of? 

We can break it down into three main components: endpoint connectors, data mapping and governance tools, and tools for monitoring and managing integrations.

Endpoint connectors

All of the apps and services connected by an iPaaS have application programming interfaces (APIs) with their own endpoints. Think of these as different slots into which data can be fed to produce outputs or changes in the app's database. 

These API endpoints are activated when you press buttons in an app or submit text in a form. You can talk directly to the app through the API, but you'll need some programming experience to know what you're doing.

Endpoint connectors, however, make it easy to manipulate endpoints directly. In a no-code platform, it's simple to enter an output from one app's endpoint as an input into another's. This way, you can quickly string workflows together across apps instead of spending minutes or even hours manually completing them.

Data mapping and governance

Endpoints and apps can use completely different languages to work with data. Data mapping involves "mapping" one format so that it can be understood by another. 

If one API expects input in a JSON format, but the other is outputting a CSV file, the platform can translate the key-value pairs in the CSV to JSON. This ensures that data can move seamlessly from one system to another.

It also enables you to take data from different sources and formats and then "map" it into one consistent database. From there, you can carry out analytics or create automated workflows without worrying about anything breaking.

Monitoring and management tools

Once you have your automated systems running between apps, which app are you supposed to look at to see what's happening? The answer is that it doesn’t matter.

An iPaaS platform should include a dashboard to show you what's going on across your system. This helps troubleshoot issues that might arise from part of it going offline or changes in an API breaking a connection, for example.

iPaaS use cases

With an iPaaS platform, the possible combinations of apps and services should feel limitless. So, what do companies actually use them for?

Synchronizing applications

Synchronizing data between apps is the bread and butter of iPaaS. For example, integrating your MailChimp mailing list with your Salesforce CRM brings your sales and marketing teams closer together. They can work with the same customers in the same segments and automatically share detailed information about which types of messaging they’re responding to.

Migrating data

Migrating data from one system to another can be a costly and time-consuming process. With an iPaaS platform, however, you can move and transform complex data with one click. 

This can be used to massively speed up a permanent migration from a legacy system to a new cloud solution or to put your mission-critical data backups on autopilot.

Integrating IoT devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming integral in industries like manufacturing and logistics. But, how can they collect more data about their operations if all their devices are speaking different languages?

iPaaS can bridge the gaps between different IoT platforms at every stage of the process, from collecting data to mapping it into a consistent format and, finally, generating real-time dashboards to help businesses decide what to do next.

The benefits of using iPaaS solutions

The benefits of iPaaS solutions can be numerous. Let's take a look at some of them in more detail.

10 benefits of using iPaaS solutions.

Cost and time-effective

In this day and age, data of all kinds is constantly pouring into various apps, platforms, and systems in real time. From customer service interactions to social media analytics, sales figures, and more, every part of a business is a non-stop data hive. With a non-integrated data system, the process of collating this data is very time-consuming.

To get the best insights about your customers, sales, and more, you must compare data from across the entire spectrum of your data-gathering activity. But, without an integrated approach, collating all the relevant figures takes a long time. What’s more, you may find that important data is overlooked.

With an iPaaS solution, all your apps, systems, databases, and platforms can talk to each other via APIs. This not only helps you solve legacy integration problems but also means you don’t need to waste valuable time and resources hunting down data sources. It’s all in one place—ready for you to draw insights from it—saving you time and money. 

Reduced system complexity

iPaaS is a low- to no-code solution, meaning it has pre-built connectors, templates, and ready-made architecture.

If you have the in-house software talent, you could build integrations on your own premises, but one difference between on-prem and cloud solutions is that the latter allows you to benefit from other people's work. Rather than building everything for yourself, sit back and let iPaaS providers roll out new features and integrations.

This also makes it easier to onboard your teams onto the platform—no software developer time is required. You just make an account, choose a plan that suits you, and configure the platform.

Once you’ve set up your iPaaS account and customized it to your liking, you’ll find it makes the rest of your tech stack easier to use as well, providing an effective integration management system that can bring digital transformation to even the most clunky legacy systems. 

Digitized organizational applications

On that note, digital application integration solutions like iPaaS can work wonders for a company’s tech stack. They connect your organizational applications with the data needed to run efficiently. They also allow you to easily create new business flows and operations, which can create benefits across the board.

Boost productivity

With an iPaaS like OpenLegacy Hub, you don’t have to waste time switching between tools, floundering about with inadequate middleware, or trying to draw insights from fragmented data sources. Instead, everything is quickly available exactly where you need it, even from the most complex applications in your organization—for example, legacy systems.

This means that rather than wasting time digging out data, you can get straight to what’s important: drawing insights and putting them to work.

Break down data silos

Four challenges caused by data silos: lack of a consolidated view of company data; lack of data integrity; costs of resource duplication; and obstacles in collaboration.

Image source

We’ve mentioned data silos a couple of times during this article—but what are they? Essentially, a data silo is a distinct and hard-to-access data warehouse.

For example, your marketing department may have a lot of data on customer interactions while your sales department may have a lot of data on sales preferences. To get a full and useful picture of customer character, preferences, sales habits, etc., these two sources should be combined.

All too often, however, departments silo their data. This means they either don’t share it with each other or that other departments find it hard to access and integrate data from different sources.

Fortunately, iPaaS solutions are multi-tenant, meaning integrated data is available to all relevant parties, no matter the source. Application integrations break down silos and allow for the free, insightful, and productive exchange of information across the business. 

Better security

One of the upsides of SaaS applications is that the vendor handles all the details, including security. While it’s wise to have your own network security protocols to cover your back, you don’t have to worry about the integrity of the iPaaS platform itself.

That’s because iPaaS and other SaaS platforms have a service-oriented architecture, meaning the user doesn’t have to concern themselves with structural things, like updates, security, API management, etc.

Instead, you can get straight to work and leave the architectural and security concerns to the provider.

Accurate data and better data visibility

Cloud applications can also process data anytime and anywhere. This means you’re always working with up-to-date information that flows in real time.

Here are some quick use cases:

1. A customer calls your service team and has to repeat their issue and information multiple times because each new department needs the data afresh. This is frustrating for them.

However, with an enterprise integration channeling data through an iPaaS, the information is immediately available and visible to every department that needs it. The customer’s problem is solved faster, and they leave pleased with your efficient customer service.

2. Your marketing team sends a discount code to a customer for a product they’ve just bought at full price. This is frustrating (and maybe even upsetting) for the customer.

This could be avoided with a hybrid integration iPaaS, as its integration processes would give the marketing team accurate sales data, ensuring they didn’t make these sorts of blunders.

Improves collaboration

Good communication is key to strong collaboration, and  communication is all about sharing information. As an iPaaS gives you all the integration tools you need to effortlessly share data, it naturally improves communication, which in turn makes collaboration more effective. 

Enhanced workflow automation

Good integration flows can also help with automation. Automations run off of data, so the better your integration, the smoother and more effective automation workflows will be.

Centralized integration management

iPaaS SOA (service-oriented architecture) allows you to configure your platform according to your integration needs. Having done this, you can then easily manage integrations from one interface. You don’t need to understand complex coding or development language, as the SOA handles this for you. You can simply log into the platform and get to work.

Drawbacks of iPaaS solutions

iPaaS certainly has many perks, but it's important to be aware of its limitations and drawbacks too.

Specific integration needs

Like other SaaS businesses, iPaaS providers are offering a cloud solution. This has its advantages, but it's also a uniform offering that can't adapt to meet every single customer's specific needs around integration. 

If a business has niche compliance requirements around data handling, for example, this isn’t something most cloud providers will make special exceptions for.

Automation

iPaaS is all about syncing data between services, but that doesn't necessarily mean workflow automation. Low- or no-code automation is just as powerful as integration (if not more so) but not all providers offer it. 

This creates a situation where more tools and services are needed to plug gaps in the solution, and the solution that exists is only usable by IT staff.

Skill-level

iPaaS is supposed to save you time, effort, and money, but without low- or no-code automation, it can create additional tasks for an IT team that is the only one with the ability to use it. The role of non-specialist "citizen integrators" is limited, meaning they have to ask the IT team for support. 

So, when looking into iPaaS solutions, consider the ease of use for non-technical users as well as the level of support the vendor provides.

Coordination and collaboration

The decision to invest in iPaaS must take into account the complex needs of several teams. Coordination and collaboration with all departments from the outset is extremely important, but with so many factors at play, the buying decision will inevitably favor some teams and use cases over others.

Cost

While the flat subscription fee of an iPaaS solution might seem simple, there are certain hidden costs on top of what you pay the vendor.

If your IT team ends up doing more ongoing maintenance work than expected, this must be factored into the total cost of ownership. This maintenance work could come from existing on-prem infrastructure or from staff who have issues with the new system. 

This is difficult to forecast ahead of time, but it's still an important factor to consider when making a purchase.

How iPaaS tools use OpenLegacy to reach complex systems

There are several iPaaS tools that use OpenLegacy to build a bridge between modern cloud applications and legacy systems. Here are a few names that might be familiar.

Boomi

Boomi uses OpenLegacy to streamline connections between core systems and the latest digital applications. This enables companies to accelerate their digital transformation without having to worry about changes to the system their business is built on. 

Google Application Integration

Google Application Integration uses OpenLegacy to promote fluid data exchanges between legacy and modern technologies, allowing them to coexist in one holistic digital ecosystem.

Microsoft Power Automate

Microsoft Power Automate helps businesses streamline processes between their legacy and digital tools, assisting them with growth and operational agility. This allows them to extract the most value out of their existing systems at the same time as embracing the full potential of newer applications.

Workato

Workato automates workflows between legacy and modern systems. This means teams can automate away without worrying about an on-premise vs. cloud difference in how data is managed. This enables them to save time and money on manual processes. 

Is IaaS the future of iPaaS?

Integration as a service (IaaS) can solve the problem of specialization for businesses using iPaaS. It allows them to outsource integration work to a specialist team, who can do all the legwork regarding integration and customization for them.

This is especially useful if a business has complex requirements around integration—for instance if they have a niche legacy system or unusual compliance requirements. By combining iPaas platforms with an IaaS like OpenLegacy, you can enhance and improve existing integrations, increasing operational efficiency and supporting continued digital transformation.

How and when to choose an iPaaS

Using an integration platform as a service can be a brilliant move for businesses. It can collate and streamline data, improve communication between apps, platforms and teams, help you gain crucial joined-up data insights, boost productivity, save money, improve cross-business communication, and more.

Picking the right iPaaS comes down to knowing what you need and understanding the systems you’re considering. Think hard about what you aim to achieve with your iPaaS, and don’t be afraid to experiment and ask questions to get what you require.

When considering your options, you might want to look at OpenLegacy. As a hybrid integration platform, it enables you to connect your cloud-based apps to on-prem systems. 

This means you get the best of both worlds: maximum value from your familiar legacy systems alongside the ability to integrate with the latest apps and innovations. 

 


FAQs about iPaaS

How does iPaaS work?

iPaaS acts as a connective tissue between various apps and services. It does this by offering pre-built connections between different APIs and ways to transform data from one format to another. It might also provide users with a low- or no-code interface for putting together their own automated workflows.

Without iPaaS, any given integration could require weeks of development and careful management around different systems' API security and usage policies. iPaaS makes all of this redundant, allowing teams to get on with building the workflows they need.

What is an example of work performed by an integration platform as a service (iPaaS)?

One way to use iPaaS would be to integrate your company's customer relationship management (CRM) system with your IT service management (ITSM) tool. Synchronizing this data means customer support, IT, and even sales teams can track which customers are having issues and what's being worked on.

If a complaint comes in from a key account, everyone sees the context and can prioritize the issue accordingly. The sales team is aware of the tech issue, and they don't have to chase IT for a quick resolution.

How can implementing an integration platform as a service improve a company’s operations?

iPaaS makes a company more capable and efficient by breaking down data silos, increasing communication and data-sharing between teams, and bridging gaps between different systems in the company.

This is especially useful if a company wants to take advantage of modern cloud solutions but can't move on from its legacy system all at once—iPaaS lets the two coexist without any headaches around moving data between them.

Teams can make better decisions with more data, and these decisions can be actioned faster with low- and no-code workflows that can act on many apps and services at once.

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