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Evaluate SaaS integration tools for IaaS-hosted apps

SaaS tools can enhance applications hosted on AWS, Microsoft Azure and other public clouds, but they also present integration challenges. See which tools can ease those burdens.

SaaS options have proliferated, in part, because cloud computing simplifies software development and operations for the teams that build and release those applications. However, this growth has also introduced a few challenges for the organizations that need to integrate those applications with their other cloud-based resources.

Organizations that host their applications on IaaS platforms can struggle to securely interact with multiple SaaS products, manage credentials and maintain visibility into the data generated and stored in these services. They also have to worry about governance and privacy rules, as well as automated handling of events to and from these external products.

As a result, IaaS vendors and third parties offer SaaS integration tools designed to connect a business's software applications with SaaS products. Each tool addresses different problems, use cases and audiences, ranging from software developers to less technical users.

Explore some of the SaaS integration tools and capabilities available from AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud and popular third-party vendors to decide which fits your cloud needs.

AWS SaaS integrators

IT teams have two primary integration options if they build their applications on AWS and want to use native tooling: Amazon AppFlow and Amazon EventBridge. AppFlow assists in the transfer of data from supported SaaS products to Amazon cloud services, such as Amazon Redshift and Amazon S3. The data can then be transformed, analyzed and stored for backup or auditing purposes.

Developers can query the data with Amazon Redshift Spectrum, Amazon Athena or Amazon EMR. Data is then visualized, using tools such as Amazon QuickSight, and exported to Tableau or similar tools. In addition, you can use AppFlow to transfer data into third-party SaaS applications, including Salesforce and Snowflake.

EventBridge integrates with approximately 30 supported SaaS products through specific events triggered by these SaaS sources. Once events reach EventBridge, they're placed in an event bus, which can trigger a number of designated actions. These actions include:

  • Invoking Lambda functions;
  • Sending messages to Amazon Simple Notification Service topics or Simple Queue Service queues;
  • Starting AWS Batch jobs;
  • Running tasks in Amazon Elastic Container Service;
  • Sending data to Amazon Kinesis Data Streams;
  • Running AWS Systems Manager commands;
  • Calling Amazon API Gateway endpoints; and
  • Starting AWS Step Functions workflows.

These types of integrations are suitable for event-driven functionality and task automation at the application level.

SaaS basics

  • SaaS tools are packaged offerings that solve specific problem through a fully managed, cloud-based application.
  • It covers a wide range of areas, such as sales, customer service, issue management, authentication and authorization, CRM, human resources, payments, application monitoring and marketing.
  • End users typically interact with these tools via web-based graphic interfaces hosted by the software provider and, in most cases, functionality is also exposed using APIs.

Microsoft Azure SaaS integrators

Microsoft shops can use Azure Logic Apps for cloud-based integration with sources and targets such as Salesforce and GitHub. However, Logic Apps also has a set of connectors that support Microsoft products and custom APIs, as well as enterprise and on-premises software.

Logic Apps delivers task orchestration functionality and works via a trigger. The action model is similar to EventBridge's event-driven approach. However, Logic Apps has a far broader set of triggers, with support for hundreds of connectors.

Developers can configure triggers based on a schedule, polling or initiated by sources. This service is suitable for task automation at the application level.

Azure also offers Active Directory. This centralized authentication and authorization mechanism integrates with multiple SaaS products to simplify asset management.

Google Cloud Platform SaaS integrators

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) doesn't offer a managed service specifically geared toward integrating SaaS platforms. Instead, Google recommends IT teams use Pub/Sub, a generic messaging platform that can be configured to receive messages from SaaS products and can trigger actions handled by GCP services or external systems. For this integration to work, developers first need to create a Pub/Sub topic and subscribe target components to it, e.g., GCP components and external applications. Then, SaaS platforms need to be configured to send messages to the public API endpoint for the Pub/Sub topic.

Even though it's possible to reliably integrate SaaS platforms with applications hosted in GCP and elsewhere, this model lags behind the SaaS-specific integration services on AWS or Azure, given that it's a generic offering with no built-in SaaS integrations.

Third-party options

Organizations can also choose from myriad integration platform as a service (iPaaS) tools to manage integrations between SaaS platforms and application components. MuleSoft and Jitterbit are two of the more prominent options.

MuleSoft provides a set of built-in connectors for multiple SaaS platforms. IT teams can also configure custom integrations using templates or a graphic interface. Jitterbit also offers application owners a comprehensive list of built-in integrations as well as the ability to create custom ones, with an emphasis on its graphic interface.

Apart from the high number of built-in integrations and ease of use, these third-party options are a good option for multi-cloud or hybrid environments.

Cloud SaaS comparison

Finding the right SaaS integration tool depends on the scope of the SaaS sources and the data targets. It also varies based on the nature of application deployments -- i.e., cloud-based or on-premises -- as well as the technical proficiency of the individual who will configure and maintain these integrations.

IT teams should evaluate AppFlow and EventBridge if their application is hosted on AWS. Those services simplify the transmission of data and events to other Amazon cloud services. However, they have a limited number of built-in SaaS integrations and don't offer an easy way to build custom triggers with non-supported SaaS products. For application developers, building custom integrations in AWS with SaaS products can be time-consuming.

For non-AWS, multi-cloud or on-premises applications, consider Logic Apps instead. This could also be a top option for applications that integrate with Microsoft products in an enterprise environment. The management of workflows is a useful feature of Logic Apps and the high number of built-in connectors could also be a deciding factor.

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