IPaaS integration: When, how and why to use iPaaS

Learn how to determine if iPaaS integration works for your business needs.

When organizations are looking for a greater depth of capability, iPaaS is a credible option. IPaaS is essentially

the integrated combination of Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service in a vendor-supported computing platform. It includes the tools necessary to develop and test applications, as well as middleware, deployment and server/system management. IPaaS vendors supply both server and data infrastructure, as well as a solution stack of software tools needed to build, test, deploy and manage applications in the cloud.

The reason for iPaaS integration is that most organizations need a way to address and support a cloud approach that handles data and application integration issues.

Using iPaaS is advantageous to software development organizations because the development team can focus on delivering software rather than supporting and building server environments at the same time. It provides focus and speed. IPaaS capabilities have improved, but organizations moving to iPaaS need to consider its full impact based on the needs of their application. As the saying goes, there's no rose without a thorn. Although iPaaS is growing in ability and popularity, it still requires planning and evaluation before use.

In this article, I'll discuss iPaaS, when to use it and how to determine if it's a reasonable fit for an organization by anticipating application usage, planning for change and evaluating resources and time.

Determining if iPaaS will work

An important step before planning a move to iPaaS is determining if it'll suit the organization's needs. iPaaS works best with SaaS integration, existing legacy systems of medium to low complexity, simpler B2B scenarios where speed to release is a key requirement, and social or mobile enablement. For larger, more complicated systems that are heavy with embedded legacy server systems and applications, iPaaS implementations are a struggled to complete with enough improvement to make the change feasible.

Another issue to evaluate is vendor lock-in acceptability and consequences. In other words, organizations need to fully research the offerings of a selected vendor to confirm the system meets their needs, because once the deal is signed it'll be expensive and time-consuming to change vendors. It's expensive because development may need to re-write code to work in another iPaaS vendor system, and the amount of time it takes to switch systems and return to a stable code base is significant. It is imperative that individual resources with the necessary depth of knowledge participate in the research so the organization is better protected from loss based on misunderstanding features. For example, if the organization is locked-in to the vendor at the application level, it is locked into the code that has already been re-written for both legacy applications and new features based on the vendors API model. All of that work would need re-done if the iPaaS vendor relationship fails.

Finally, organizations need to research the iPaaS vendor based on the anticipated scalability of the applications now and in the near future. Be sure to consider both the size of the transaction and transactions per hour and verify the iPaaS vendor handles it. Again, involve developers, architects and other engineering personnel in discussions to ensure the technical discussions are appropriate and the iPaaS vendor selected meets the organization's needs.

Evaluate and plan for the change

Once the decision to go with iPaaS is made, create a project or design plan and map out what other options need to be handled. For example, most cloud-based integration platforms exist outside the corporate firewall. Early planning needs to include how to handle the firewall and customer security based on how the iPaaS implementation is set up and where transactions are initiated. It's highly likely this will be a significant change to the organizations system. Involve the security team early to avoid issues during implementation.

As part of the project or design plan, be specific and factual on what platform(s) are used, both for on-premise and cloud-based applications. Vendors rely on accurate platform designation to plan for and provide during implementation.

Planned and designed correctly, the organizations iPaaS implementation should provide a customer enhanced experience that differentiates applications from each other. Or, as Ivo Totev writes in his posting "Has the time arrived for integrated Platform as a Service suites?" in REALITYcheck, "IPaaS solutions are helping to better engage customers, partners and employees while at the same time better differentiate them from their competitors.”"

Have resources with experience and time

Never underestimate the importance of involving engineering and server-system professionals in the evaluation and design phases. They are the ones who truly understand how the organization's applications function in the case of engineering, and similarly, the only people who truly understand how the corporate IT structure functions. It's imperative to the success of the iPaaS implementation that the team fully understands how the system functions together.

Include time to designate human resources that have experience to participate and if they need experience, plan is to provide training. An organization must make the designated employees aware of their role expansion. Tell them of the plan to include them on the team and prepare them by telling them the time expected of them. Make sure they have the time in their schedule and confirm they understand the expectations.

IPaaS integration results in overall system simplicity. An integration IaaS/PaaS system should eliminate waste and reduce time to market by allowing faster configuration and management on both the server and application side.

This was first published in June 2014

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