The Hybrid IT evolution started with Organizations adopting purpose-built SaaS (Software as a Service) applications to meet their specific Business needs; for example, CRM applications for marketing, sales or customer service. There are hundreds of SaaS applications available in the market today from numerous cloud providers, offering various kinds of functionalities to large and small-medium businesses. With the tendency to buy best-of-breed SaaS solutions, Organizations end up in hybrid IT landscape running most of the Business applications on-premises and some in cloud environment as SaaS applications.
This essentially means that the business processes and the underlying data are getting fragmented across on-premises and cloud endpoints. And when it comes to an end-to-end business processes or information synchronization, data needs to be exchanged between these applications in real-time keeping the applications in sync. For example, it could be an order status event flowing from on premise Order Management ERP application to SaaS CRM application or account update synchronization between CRM SaaS application and Accounting SaaS application (both running on cloud). These kind of integration use cases created a need for an integration platform that can seamlessly move data between on-premises and cloud applications and between distributed cloud applications (cloud-to-cloud) in real-time, therefore avoiding situation of manually keying in data into these applications.
To address the above integration challenges, iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) emerged as a cloud based offering. iPaaS providers offer integration platform as a Service on cloud, the key is service model, integration platform as a service means no capital expenditure in a dedicated heavyweight integration platform/product. The multi-tenant cloud-based integration platform allows Organizations to quickly build integration flows/tasks for their cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premises integration requirements using designer tools of iPaaS provider. Once ready, these integration flow/tasks can be deployed on-premises or on cloud; these flows run in an independent container/engine.
In order to enable rapid integration between cloud and on-premises applications and between cloud applications, iPaaS providers offer pre-built connectors for various popular SaaS endpoints and packaged enterprise applications. In addition to pre-built connectors, iPaaS providers also provide pre-packaged integration templates that can reduce the overall development effort.
The diagram below shows the scenario where integration flows/tasks are deployed on cloud for integrating cloud applications.
Deployment of integration flows/tasks on cloud makes sense when all the integration endpoints are on cloud; data can be directly moved between cloud applications. For example, account update synchronization from CRM SaaS application to Accounting SaaS application.
Additionally, flows deployed on the cloud can scale up to handle additional loads as needed by leveraging underlying elastic cloud infrastructure.
The diagram below shows the scenario where integration flows/tasks are deployed on-premises for integrating on-premises applications with SaaS applications.
Deployment of integration flows/tasks to on-premises infrastructure makes sense when any of the integration endpoints is on-premises application. For example, order status update from on-premises Order Management ERP application to CRM SaaS application or opportunities data from CRM SaaS application to Order Management application.
There is a growing trend among SaaS providers to expose functionalities and data/objects as REST APIs and SOAP services. iPaaS integration leverage on this making the overall application and data integration standards-based.
Benefit of iPaaS
The notion of integration platform as a service results in significant cost saving on integration projects. The offering is boon for small and medium scale Organizations who wants to leverage SaaS solutions and integrate the same with their on-premises applications with minimal cost. Some of the key benefits are highlighted below
- No investment in procuring integration platform/product and hardware.
- Organization need not spend any effort, time and money in installing various components of integration platform.
- No platform upgrade and maintenance cost; upgrades and maintenance are managed by iPaaS providers.
- Faster development of complex integration flows and scenarios by use of pre-built connectors/integration templates (most of the leading provides offers visual integration tools offering mediation capabilities – data mapping, transformation, routing etc). Additionally, adapters/connectors to new SaaS applications are made available by iPaaS providers, thus improving time to market.
- Centralized administration and management on cloud.
- Scale up and scale down as needed depending on the traffic. For example, auto scale up by adding resources temporarily during Thanksgiving or Christmas to deal with increased load.
- Highly availability, load balancing and disaster recovery support ensuring Business continuity (iPaaS providers leverage capabilities offered by underlying IaaS providers to cover these non-functional requirements).
- Secure and reliable delivery of data.
Cloud adoption, API Economy and impact on iPaaS offerings
Due to the benefit cloud computing model offers in terms of cheaper cost, the scope of cloud adoption by Organizations is no more restricted only to SaaS applications, Organizations have started moving more and more on-premises applications-capabilities to cloud and in some cases building custom applications on cloud using PaaS offerings from vendors, thus creating a more complex hybrid IT landscape.
With surge in API economy, the integration scope goes beyond the standard use cases of cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premises endpoints. Cloud applications-capabilities also need to participate in APIs based integration with partners and third parties for collaborative offerings/value added services. Additionally, there could be scenarios where cloud applications may have to integrate with trusted partner for exchanging information, thus creating a case for B2B integration. For example, order fulfillment-shipping cloud application may need to send ASN-Advanced Shipment Notification to buyer (B2B integration use case – involving exchange of industry standard Business Messages such as RosettaNet with trusted partners).
What these diversified integration use cases mean to iPaaS providers?
With the need to address multiple integration use cases and scenarios, iPaaS providers are expanding their product portfolio to include – ESB, API Management, B2B integration and Messaging (Guaranteed delivery) capabilities under one umbrella; at the same time individual component could also be available as standalone offering allowing Organizations to choose services they are interested in.
What does iPaaS mean to Organizations?
Most of the large Organizations will already have established integration middleware platforms available on-premises and they may have to start adopting low cost iPaaS offerings to address various integration use cases involving cloud applications-capabilities and in some cases even for enabling on-premises to on-premises integration. Small and Medium Organizations can use iPaaS to address most of their integration needs with minimal cost.
Apart from supporting real-time integration scenarios, iPaaS may also include support for batch/bulk data exchange between cloud and on-premises applications through File Transfer and ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) mechanism.
So to summarize, hybrid IT has created the need for an integration platform that can support multiple integration use cases-scenarios and integrate all cloud and on-premises endpoints seamlessly. iPaaS has emerged as cloud-based offering to meet this demand.
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