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June 18, 2018

Uncovering iPaaS -- A Key to Accelerate the Speed of Business

Today, Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is the most sought after technology. It holds the promise to align technologies, allowing them to work in tandem and respond faster to business needs. The technology is getting the desired stronghold. Enterprises with iPaaS are solving IT complexity, eliminating isolated islands of automation, and driving business forward successfully. It helps enterprises in accessing several business benefits downstream.

Harnessing iPaaS: Breaking down Information Silos and Islands of Automation

Islands of Automation and data silos are the fundamental problems facing today’s enterprises. It is an unintended consequence of amassing technologies in an IT environment. The problem is relatively bigger for small to medium organizations which have thousands of cloud and legacy applications in parallel. These applications use different underlying data formats and databases for storing the data. Enterprises face dilemmas while connecting these isolated and disparate applications with partner systems and bringing data feeds back and forth. As a result, they are hit by a barrage of IT complexity issues and down times, which ultimately prevent them from sharing data and executing business operations.

This is inherently an integration challenge which slows down the pace of business. A lot of precious time is wasted in expensive rework of building and testing the mammoth like JAVA codes. A great deal of time is spent in defining and building interfaces. This problem is prevails even in the organizations with most robust competency centers.

Conventionally, organizations use the direct path of point-to-point coding for addressing this problem. IT teams set up independent interfaces for connecting bridging the application islands. This works fine until one or two systems need to be integrated. But it becomes problematic when these interfaces proliferate and turn into a complex architecture that is difficult to maintain. These interfaces can never be static and IT teams make changes to them without knowing what other developers are doing. A single change to one interface brings a cascade of changes to others ultimately impacting the electronic data interchange. Because of these issues, companies often find their cloud first strategy at cross roads.

An iPaaS solution is a more strategic approach to address these challenges. It provides a deliberate response to surmount the challenges of IT complexity and Islands of automation. With several capabilities out-of-the-box, It allows enterprises to manage integrations in a whole new way. It provides a single approach to build and manage the sum total of integrations. 

EAI vs. ESB vs. iPaaS

Enterprise Application Integration is a framework to enable data integration across multiple applications in a local environment. It is generally established in an IT environment which lacks the deliberate and planned architecture. To an extent, it simplifies business processes, but it lacks capabilities to deal with real time data which is constantly being generated by new and old technologies. It is not an ideal solution for a complex IT environment where several new and old technologies are deployed. With conventional EAI platforms, teams face several performance bottlenecks. Fair share of problems surface while frequently accessing and changing business logic -- which is never static.

Another prominent approach to solve technology integration problem is Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). ESB is an architecture that functions like a run time engine to integrate enterprise applications and services in a complex environment. It assumes the role of a router to manage the data flows. Teams use different messages and rule based logic to accomplish real time data transformations. However, ESB is also not a silver bullet and it fails to handle colossal data flows generated by employees, gadgets, and modern day applications. Also, a lot of IT intervention and computational force is required to enable and manage an ESB. A tricky operational challenge is scarcity of developers for building the ESB run-time engine. 

Insurance and banking use cases where data arrives in several formats cannot use EAI or ESB solutions. Multiple sources of truth and data errors impact the data quality and make it difficult for organizations in adhering to complainces. The right solution for integrating people, processes, and technologies is an iPaaS solution which combines the best of EAI and ESB capabilities to beat back IT complexity.

iPaaS is a modern day approach which provides automated tools for connecting software applications, and processes in different environments. Unlike ESB, and EAI, it is deployed in the cloud and that’s why requires no further hardware setup. It delivers foundational support to IT and ensures greater standardization, simplification, and reuse. Businesses can align technologies together, marshal data in an order, exchange data faster and accelerate the speed of business.  

iPaaS is not a very new approach. It is here for more than six years and big changes have taken place in this market. Since then, iPaaS platforms have evolved considerably. They have become quite enterprise focused for digital transformation. Previous world iPaaS platforms used API gateways to expose data and transactions. Dedicated team of developers developed APIs that contained data & transactions and exposed them via API gateways. A business developer used to sign up this API. The business logic enabled them to call an API, access data, and return the result. But all this involved a lot of re-modelling and restructuring.

Next Generation iPaaS Models for Enterprise IT Integration

Current iPaaS models offer a single platform for multiple styles of integration. This framework allows organizations to tackle distinct types of integration issues. It helps in ensuring that best-of breed enterprise systems are well integrated with each other and on-premise systems in an orchestrated or automated manner.  By eliminating data silos, it provides a single view of customers to deliver timely, relevant and trustworthy information downstream to analytics and business users. Large varieties of data and data formats, and relational databases could be synchronized for efficient usage.

“iPaaS is a cloud based way for directors of integration to deliver integration platform capabilities.”

-- Gartner

The advantages of an integration platform with a cloud based backbone is increased speed or time, scalability, subscription based pricing model, self service, single view of new and old data services. The design model of iPaaS improves business agility and time to revenue. Data, Applications, and processes can be accessed everywhere and anytime. This iPaaS model empowers users to handle API proliferation and onslaught of Internet of Things (IoT). It is the right solution for scenarios where integration issues become a bottleneck for business operations.

Modern  day iPaaS frameworks are specifically  built with dynamic capabilities for lifting heavy workloads. Centralized interface for integration eliminates multiple sources of truth, reduces friction  and delivers a competitive advantage.

It provides the self service ease to get a single view of customers and eliminate data silos. Business users can gather the information scattered across application like Salesforce, Marketo, Workday, Zendesk, etc.  User can bring all systems in line and leverage the business intelligence out of them.

Another ground breaking feature of a modern iPaaS solution is professional services automation logic. This logic automates processes and eliminates the chances of data duplication. This means, order management systems can be integrated with contract management or financial management application in few simple steps and minutes. Open air integrations enable a road map to automate manual and professional services. Enterprises get the advantages like 360-degree view of customer, one main record, agility, lower operational cost, faster time to revenue, etc.

Elasctic Integration Capability of New iPaaS Models

Transformations happening in the hybrid computing environment have caused a shift in the center of gravity of IT resulting into increased complexity. Moders day iPaaS delivers the elastic integration capability to deal with this complexity. The interface delivers design, manage, and monitor capability to build and manage integrations. This model gives more fire power to scale services automatically. Pre-built application connectors make it easy for organization's for integrating with SAP, Oracle or any other significant elements running on the firewall. This framework makes sure that:

  • No data is stored/ cached during data integration.
  • Electronic data interchange is 100% standard based.
  • Integration flows can be scaled as per data traffic flowing through it.

A typical manufacturing order to cash life cycle consists of the following steps:

Order → Credit Check → Shecdule → FulFill → Package → Ship → Invoice → Payments

With a next generation iPaaS solution, integration across business systems established around these business systems can be managed in a better way. Users can use a single run time engine of an iPaaS to develop, publish and manage APIs for cloud and on-premise systems around these operations:

Order Entry → Credit Control → Production Planning & scheduling → CAM System → Inventory System → Distribution Systems → Billing → General Ledger

This allows enterprise systems in exchanging feeds from new volumes and varieties of data. Simultaneously, dealing with high velocities off data becomes easy. Custom integrations for multiple APIs, and protocols can be built in a few minutes. Seamless data integration allows information to be mapped on a common business vocabulory. Encrypted environment protects data at all layers.

Here are some emerging new use cases where iPaaS is becoming critical:

Cloud Application Integration: Where there is need for rampage and real time orchestration to connect multiple cloud based systems, i.e., Workday, Salesforce, etc.

Digital Marketing: iPaaS can be useful for integrating and streamlining the digital marketing technologies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Tableau, etc.

Big Data Analytics: An iPaaS framework can deliver advanced ETL capabilities for supporting Big Data initiatives. Organizations can prepare, sort, aggregate, join, and transform data for Big Data purposes.

Internet of Things: New iPaaS models will help in gathering data from next generation machines and sensors to improve processes.

Experts believe that new technologies like cloud, analytics, and gadgets will take us out of the twentieth century. However, getting through the next quarter century of success with a mix of technologies will require end-to-end integration. It will help businesses in connecting businesses, creating data connections, closing deals faster, and accelerating the pace of business.

Author Bio: My name is John Scutz and I am a technology enthusiast at Adeptia Inc. As an active participant in the IT industry, I often like to talk about data, integration, and how technology is helping businesses realize their potential.

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