What to look for in an iPaaS?

February 2, 2018

If you are looking for the best integration vendor to support you with the development and execution of data integration strategy, the chances that you have already discovered a countless of possible partners.

To understand which would be the best part, you want to understand that what you have to look for in a modern cloud-based integration platform and what features you exactly need when you want to outsource data and system integrations.

What is an iPaaS?

As a vendor that provides an integration platform as a service (iPaaS), we want to guide how this tool can best serve your requirements. What does lay behind the abbreviation?

Gartner has defined it as the following:

” Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution, and governance of integration flow connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within an individual or across multiple organizations.”

(If you want more in-depth specs, you might want to look at our product page or download a short product sheet.)

Why is it an emerging trend?

If you are googling iPaaS you will find a lot of different vendors with a variety of offerings. Some are specializing in connections to certain applications and SaaS products, some is competing in a niche, some with long development times and big market share and even bigger prices.

However, if you want to do data and system integrations better and faster than your competitions, you cannot neglect to find a modern integration platform that meets all your specifications.

In the last 5-10 years as our Internet usage has exploded, so did the number of data sources and the variety, velocity, and volume of the data.

Still, most of the systems that large enterprises use today are still those purchased decades ago. Connecting with these old legacy systems that are using proprietary formats and transmitting data from and through them is challenging. Firms deal with structured, semi-structured, unstructured, and even sensor data in big volumes and to make sense of the data and manage it appropriately, they don’t only need to have a state-of-art integration strategy, but also the right tools and solutions to execute it.

Companies need to build out interconnectivity across their customers, partners, third parties and so on, therefore taking months to develop integration solutions would be a huge disadvantage.

Why should you stop hand coding?

Shortly, it’s time-consuming and risky – meaning you can easily break something and you will pay large sums for the development.

Hand coding should be the past in terms of data integrations – surprisingly, still many – especially smaller firms – do it still.

Imagine the complexity of a hand-coded integration when you need to connect with many systems, applications, partners, and devices. Add to the equation some SQL, C++, or Javascript. Hand coding gets especially difficult when the documentation on the development and the final solution hasn’t been done properly. Imagine that the developer that has created the integration is leaving and the responsibilities of making changes and maintenance in the code land on another poor lad. In this case, doing a small wrong change and the entire integration could break.

Cost of maintaining hand coded integrations is also huge. If you need to develop integrations fasts and you want to be able to control the costs of the integrations you must change your approach and look towards iPaaS vendors.

What do you need to look for when choosing the right modern cloud-based integration platform?

1. Rapid development

Compared to traditional integration solutions (hand coding and first-generation integration platforms), iPaaS provides a big change for those that radically want to change the time used for the development cycle.

Advanced integration platforms offer pre-built connectors, business rules, maps, and ready-developed integrations for certain use cases, and new features that may be needed for your specific solution can be developed rapidly.

2. Lean and agile

The latter indicates that iPaaS allows for lean and agile development – your specific requirements and needs for the solution are always taken into consideration.

To ensure the best possible customer experience and that your solutions are developed, tested, and deployed in a timely manner and modified if needed, iPaaS allows space for immediate issue resolution and releasing updates anytime. This way, we can aim for high-quality solutions that are fully controlled and managed and comes with proactive alerting.

3. End-to-end testing

Agile and end-to-end testing are related straightforwardly. It’s always an important step after the development period, as testing the entire integration flow may point out flaws or specs early in the process that should be changed. The flexibility of a cloud-based integration platform allows to do quick changes or create new features to deliver the best possible integrations.

4. Faster time to production

Fast development, end-to-end testing together with the customer, and agile methodology will result in significantly shorter time-to-production. The speed of integrations can be a differentiator in many industries.

5. Proactive alerting and support

Your IT personnel shouldn’t worry about maintaining and updating integrations as your needs are changing. iPaaS vendors offer Professional Services and Support teams that will proactively guide you with any change requests or issues you may have.

modern cloud-based integration platform

6. Ability to scale/elasticity

A cloud-based integration platform comes with the benefit of being elastically scalable. What does this mean in practice?

Let’s assume that you have a small on-going project that was successfully automated with the help of an integration platform. This project has been new, kind of in a pilot phase, and the volumes of information that you have been exchanging with your partner have been low – let’s assume 10 000 messages a week.

After the initial 3 months of the pilot phase, the project has been successful, and you and your partner decide, you want to continue the work together and the message volumes would rise to 100 000 messages per week.

In this scenario, you will see the advantage of having a data integration solution in place that can be easily modified and scaled when it’s necessary.

7. On-premise and hybrid integration scenarios

Enterprises are still using heavy-weight service-oriented architectures that can be difficult to integrate. However, replacing them is not the solution. An iPaaS can make help to utilize these SOAs better with creating complex B2B integrations. When you need to connect on-premise legacy systems (on-premise-to-on-premise integration) or even these same systems with cloud-based applications or SaaS products (hybrid integration), iPaaS is a natural choice.

8. API management

In a previous post, we have written about why it’s worth to outsource API Management.

API Management is an important element of iPaaS. APIs are the easiest and fastest way to rapidly connect with your network and automate the data transfer through them. iPaaS comes with API management capabilities that are not only cost-effective but also extremely hands-on.

9. Data governance

“Data governance is a defined process an organization follows to ensure that high-quality data exists throughout the complete lifecycle. The key focus areas of data governance include availability, usability, integrity, and security." Wikipedia

To comply with your data governance approach, you need to find a solution that ensures that the data is available for all relevant stakeholders in real-time, while you need to ensure that it happens in a secure way and the quality of the data is good.

A lot of our customers have been using our integration platform to share the information with everyone at a faster pace than before and used integration solutions to improve the quality of the data which removed the need for manual work.

10. Data quality

It’s the best to explain how an iPaaS can help with the problem of bad data in practice.

Let’s take a look at two different examples.

One data quality improvement work that we have been doing in the ocean logistics segment was to improve the quality of EDI transactions. In case, the integration solution would detect error or missing data based on our customer’s business rules, we would automatically forward it back to the sender for modifications. This has automated and speeded up the process of fixing the quality of the data.

The other significant example has been the bad quality of electronic Air Waybills in the air cargo industry. By automating the error detection, airlines can save up to 70% on not needing to do the process manually.

11. IoT integrations

We have been writing a few posts on how IoT can be an important building block of better supply chain management initiatives.

Where does an iPaaS fit into the bigger picture?

Internet of Things devices is generating large volumes of data that needs to be adequately managed so that the useful insights of the information could be mined.

When the IoT devices and sensors send data through a gateway, and iPaaS can help to manage the data, deliver it to the right parties in real-time. The integrations can be easily managed through iPaaS and additional IoT devices can also be attached to the solution. In this scenario, the scalability of the platform is in favor of the user.

12. Analytics / Insights / Monitoring

Monitoring your business activity and the data and events that have been flowing through the integration solutions can help you to modify processes, optimize operations, and make better decisions regarding your business.

The data can be integrated into your own systems, so following the insights is convenient.

Is iPaaS the right solution for your integration needs?

If you are still not sure about that after reading this article, and you have any further questions or you would like to know more about the tech, you can always reach out and we will be happy to walk you through the platform and answer your questions.

In the meanwhile, you might want to download our latest publication on API Management – which could be a good first step to start your experiment with a cloud-based integration platform. You can grab a copy by clicking on the image below:

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Still wondering if you need an iPaaS?

If you like what you’ve found, reach out and we will be happy to guide you. Meanwhile, we thought this document might be useful for you.
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