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IPaaS tools aim to alleviate app integration troubles

With the rise of hybrid cloud architectures, there's a heightened need for more sophisticated app and data integration tools. IPaaS can help but isn't necessarily a cure-all.

As businesses deploy applications across an increasingly broad mix of on-premises and cloud-based systems, some turn to iPaaS to reduce that complexity.

Integrated platform as a service is a suite of cloud-based tools, such as prebuilt connectors and data mapping features, that helps businesses develop and implement integration flows to connect their applications, regardless of where they are hosted. Typically, large enterprise and B2B organizations are the biggest users of iPaaS, as they often need to integrate applications within a complex, hybrid environment. Universities are also big iPaaS users because of their mixed IT architectures, which usually consist of legacy systems.

Before your organization takes the leap, it's important to carefully weigh the benefits and potential limitations that come with iPaaS tools, as well as understand the current vendor landscape.

IPaaS perks

Flexibility: It all starts with flexibility. With iPaaS, you can pursue various application integration models -- on-prem to cloud, cloud to cloud and on-prem to on-prem. This flexibility also enables you to streamline the integration of legacy applications with newer systems.

Cost: IPaaS tools can often provide a more cost-effective approach compared to more traditional middleware or application integration platforms, as they are hosted on the iPaaS vendors' own infrastructure.

Speed and efficiency: Legacy integration platforms can take a significant amount of time to roll out and stand up. However, teams can deploy iPaaS tools more quickly, as they are usually delivered as a cloud-hosted service. These tools connect to all of a business's applications, pull data from each and deliver that information to a single interface. What's more, iPaaS can reduce your overall development lifecycle, since it minimizes the effort required to make changes to applications for integration purposes.

Security: Many organizations are wary of cloud computing because they fear a loss of control over their data. IPaaS tools, however, can lower the risk of major security breaches because they offer built-in security features to assist with intruder alerts and fraud detection.

IPaaS limitations

Despite these benefits, there are a few limitations related to iPaaS tools.

Vendor selection: Regardless of the technology, choosing the right vendor is always a challenge. While iPaaS vendors offer flexibility in terms of integration with other tools, potential buyers still need to ensure that the provider they choose will give them what they need to succeed. For example, some vendors offer more robust integration capabilities for on-prem to on-prem connections than other.

Not a replacement for human judgment: While iPaaS gives you the flexibility to integrate applications across different hosting environments, you'll still need the right people on staff to evaluate what exactly needs to integrate and what does not. Otherwise, you might end up pouring money into something that isn't necessary.

Support for modern technology: New technologies constantly enter the cloud market, and your management and integration tools, including iPaaS, need to be able to adapt. As some vendors move more quickly than others, make sure that your offering is built on modern standards, which include JSON and REST. Your iPaaS tools should also have a strong focus on APIs, which serve as the backbone to your applications and services.

Vendor options

As mentioned above, choosing the right iPaaS vendor isn't always easy. Here's a breakdown of some of your options to help guide that decision.

Mulesoft: MuleSoft, which has been acquired by Salesforce, provides integration software to connect applications, data and devices. The company's Anypoint Platform includes CloudHub, a cloud-based iPaaS tool for API and SaaS integration. Enterprises can use CloudHub to build out an entire network of services, connected via APIs. In addition, the company offers consulting, training and support services.

Dell Boomi: Dell Boomi offers AtomSphere, a multi-tenant platform that integrates cloud and on-premises data and apps, and enables enterprises to design cloud-based integration processes. Developers can use Dell Boomi's sophisticated mapping tools to easily build complex integrations, without having to do any coding.

SAP: SAP Cloud Platform includes integration features that can connect both SAP and non-SAP applications, hosted either on premises or in the cloud. It's a mature product that also includes support for IoT and stream analytics.

Scribe: Scribe Online is a cloud-based data integration platform with built-in connectors for applications, along with customization tools.

SnapLogic: SnapLogic's Enterprise Integration Cloud offers over 450 prebuilt connectors -- called "Snaps" -- that enable enterprises to integrate ERP, social media and databases of all types. It supports all types of hybrid implementations and data integration.

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