Integration used to be a lengthy, complicated process, a process that simply would not keep up with companies that are within some stage of their digital transformation. This demand for speed and interconnectivity prompted the growth of full life cycle iPaaS solutions otherwise known as integration platform as a service that would provide full life-cycle support for the trove of applications that enterprises are trying to connect. 

iPaaS is a suite of cloud services that enables the development, execution, and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications, and data within the individual or across multiple organizations.

“Before Salesforce, organizations did localized integration across applications, And so as organizations started adopting cloud applications, SaaS apps, they had that same need to connect and they were looking for integration-related technology that could handle that interconnectivity across cloud,” said Maureen Fleming, the program vice president for IDC’s Business Process Management and Research Area. “From there, iPaaS vendors started expanding as customers had new needs. 

Data and processes were spread across multiple applications, obstructing a full view of the business side of things. Previously, companies have used middleware to link software within their enterprises, but the move to cloud has created a new issue. 

“While these same organizations have spent the last 15 years integrating their enterprise applications to break down silos of information, they are now seeing a renewed problem of ‘cloud silos’ and facing the dark side of SaaS integration,” MuleSoft wrote on its website . “With little to no barrier of entry in adopting SaaS, companies are deploying numerous SaaS applications without IT involvement, resulting in hundreds of applications and services in the ecosystem, all siloed off and unable to communicate seamlessly with one another.”

Now, iPaaS solutions offer fast integration times, a subscription payment model, and a multi-tenant aspect to the software. iPaaS solutions also take care of deployment, management, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the platform.

iPaaS adoption is accelerating due to the increased traction of cloud computing applications and the extensive need for efficient processes for developing and managing enterprise applications, according to Market Watch. 

According to Market Research Future Analysis, the global iPaaS market is estimated to generate revenue of approximately $2 billion by 2023, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 22% between 2017-2023.

Also, the expansion of IoT devices and AI are pushing for a greater need for data governance, management, and connectivity, making iPaaS companies crucial for the next stage of innovation.

“So looking forward, I think integration is a part of the architecture of modern systems. You can’t really have a good transformation strategy or a good major adoption of a cloud, without having to consider integration as a core factor of success,” Fleming said.

What iPaaS solutions provide
The capabilities of iPaaS solutions include syncing customer records between two different cloud-based softwares, sending orders from cloud-based software to an on-site application, or extracting sales data from an application onto the on-site data warehouse.

Now, many iPaaS solutions have grown to include API management, API gateway software, electronic data interchange, and extract, transform, load (ETL) operations, and they are constantly looking to add different tiers or layers of capability.

iPaaS solutions are constantly expanding in their feature sets to meet growing consumer demand, and many offer end-to-end support and capabilities for integrating and creating cloud-native APIs. 

“It’s an application development platform. I think we look at integration as just another type of application that one needs to build but with certain special characteristics,” said Uri Sarid, CTO at MuleSoft. “You should think about integration as not just this mysterious thing that only integration developers really should do, but rather as another capability in the toolset of developers to develop a kind of application that’s different than the code applications they’ve done in the past.”

MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform was created to help users build robust application networks by turning their applications into a set of composable capabilities that users then compose and generate business value out of. From there, the pace of deriving business value keeps accelerating, according to Sarid. 

He added that speed is the primary thing that businesses are looking for, followed by the need to reduce costs, which go hand-in-hand with agility. “The role of IT will shift from being one that has to implement everything, and therefore has to have a budget for it, to one that enables the rest of the business to innovate on its own. I think it’s that partnership between IT and the rest of the business that leads to lower costs and more rapid speeds,” Sarid said.  

To see if an iPaaS solution will offer the best value, the businesses need to see if the connectivity that they are looking for requires new logic. If that’s the case, then there need to be developers writing new things.

However, more often than not, the logic does exist somewhere and businesses need to basically attach to those systems, orchestrate, do some transformation and then connect it. This approach has users building a small number of composite applications that connect to other systems and in the course of doing that they end up exposing and leaving behind some APIs, Sarid explained.

“Now you have exposed capabilities and data that you can use later. That means that the next project will go even faster than that and so on. That’s how in the end, businesses say ‘I’m getting great speed this year, but the following year, I’m getting even better speed’ and that motivates them to invest more,” Sarid said. “Obviously that means more and more capabilities get unlocked and we find ourselves not just with faster moving enterprises but with much healthier ones.”

Jitterbit is an iPaaS that offers the ability to integrate many applications, with pre-built templates and workflows to automate your business processes. This low-code approach improves the two core tenets of an iPaaS platform: speed and simplicity of integration. This approach also broadens the scope of professionals that can get involved in integrations since it no longer requires heavy developer involvement. 

“User experience is of foremost importance. You just drag and drop your connectivities, so you know your source, you know your target and then you can establish authentication to these systems,” said Shekar Hariharan, vice president of marketing at Jitterbit. “What we are seeing now is, ok we have the API integration, business, integration, data integration so what people are asking for now is to help synchronize these processes.”

When setting up the platform, users have the choice to do application integration and data integration by the API or if they’re jumpstarting their application, then they can use all of the prebuilt templates to help speed up the time to deploy with everything seamlessly tied together. 

With the templates you can literally set up within days, according to Hariharan.  

The solution can be used by companies regardless of their size. Enterprise companies primarily have very complex use cases with hundreds of integration projects, while smaller companies might just have dozens of projects. 

“Creating APIs, that’s the new currency today of data, it’s all measured in APIs,” Jitterbit said.

Meanwhile, Oracle – another low-code competitor – has an iPaaS solution called Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC).

“One of the top things customers are asking for is more out-of-the-box solutions. This is exciting because Oracle is one of the few companies that has an infrastructure business, but it also has the broadest and deepest of all application portfolios,” said Suhas Uliyar, the VP of Product Management of Digital Assistants and Integration. “In the past, businesses that wanted to provide integrations for digital experiences such as mobile, or chatbots, or blockchain, or IoT, feared that integration would take 6 months or more.”    

Oracle cloud provides a bridge where users can connect an existing SOA to an iPaaS which is the OIC in a way that they can discover and reuse their artifacts of the Oracle SOA Suite from OIC and vice-versa. 

“Let’s say your center of gravity is on-prem and you’re only doing design on-premise and let’s say you want to connect to a CRM system in the cloud, where it’s Salesforce or Oracle CRM. Basically,  you can use the iPaaS to become your cloud integration and you can discover all of your artifacts for the cloud via SOA and vice-versa,” Uliyar said. 

SAP is another large iPaaS solution that offers semantic integration for a business-centric model, integration packs that contain over 1,400 integrations and the ability to work with different clouds. The platform itself is completely managed, so that users don’t have to install anything. 

“Think of us as the Netflix of integrations,” said Harsh Jegadeesan, vice president of product management of the Hybrid Integration Platform. “It’s become very strategic because it allows you to connect to multiple applications.” 

When it comes to which vendors to choose, different iPaaS solutions work best with particular use cases, so it’s best to see what value the company wants to derive from it first, according to Gartner. 

In a report titled “Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service,” Gartner found that the offerings available in the market exhibit significantly different degrees of strength across an increasing range of functionality from protocol connectivity, communication and construction of integration workflows, to new expectations for policy enforcement and community management.

“This market is booming and you can imagine by seeing the number of startup companies coming around,” Jitterbit’s Hariharan said. “There is a need to have integration as part of everybody’s stack. When you have applications you have to have integration.” 

According to Hariharan, iPaaS is among the top fastest-growing tech markets, happening across businesses of all different sizes and all different industries. 

“I think as we start to see that you’re building applications in an iPaaS, and another company is building their applications in an iPaaS, and both of them likely connect to a lot of common systems, what we’re starting to see is the application networks that they’re building in individual companies are becoming really a global application network,” MuleSoft’s Sarid said. “There’s a tremendous amount of power in regarding it as a single global application network much like we regard the entire internet instead of different networks. The patterns that an airline uses to connect to a car rental company, those should be relatively universal, so if we can get lots of airlines and lots of car companies to interact in these standard ways, we’ll see that that whole industry gets going a lot faster and that’s actually good for all of them because consumer expectations are rising for the industry.”

He added that iPaaS is currently in the mass adoption stage in terms of demand but not yet at the stage in which everyone knows this is the right way to build things.  

“In the last four or five years, customers are somewhere in between their on-prem deployment of applications and cloud deployments so we see a lot of hybrid use cases where customers have ERP on premise but have their CRM in the cloud. There are certain homegrown applications on prem but some of the new cloud-native applications are running on multiple clouds so what we’ve seen is an incredible increase in the complexity of architectures,” Oracle’s Uliyar said. “The iPaaS market really came into play to enable these hybrid integrations and another major move to simplicity.”

AI features are a growing demand in iPaaS
Vendors that offer integration are more frequently using AI to improve the usability of the studio environment of integration and to improve the overall ease of use and manageability of integration. IDC’s Fleming predicted that the trend is going to continue.

“Some organizations are looking at AI as something that you call as a service and other people are looking at machine learning as something you use to make a prediction. And in many cases, you’re making a prediction in real-time about something,” Fleming said. “And the more it’s that latter use case, the more it’s being embedded into integration-related assets.” 

For example, Jitterbit’s platform uses AI to offer real-time language translation, speech recognition and product upsell recommendations to make better decisions. 

Oracle’s Uliyar said that machine learning can also offer self-healing capabilities that provide suggestions on how to automatically fix when someone has built a wrong integration. Other use cases include integration insight to see how well integrations are working as well as where are the bottlenecks. 

When it comes to machine learning in MuleSoft’s platform, the technology is used to figure out how to map one type of data to the other and help the developer by suggesting the mappings.

“But the question is, what is it that you train those machines on and I think that gets to the heart of what we’re really seeing a lot of demand for, and that is the declarative nature of how you compose applications and APIs and so on,” MuleSoft’s Sarid said. “It started from APIs and the importance of API specs, making it much much easier for developers to connect to systems, but it’s also easier for machine learning to look at how people are connecting to things, and starting to build patterns on top of it.”

SAP’s Jegadeesan even said that the next frontier for iPaaS is in applying AI and ML. SAP’s iPaaS contains an integration advisor to predict automatic integrations.