Why do we need an integration platform?
Before we discuss how to choose the right integration platform or iPaaS, let’s understand why an organization would need an integration platform. Whether you are small company with a few applications, or a big enterprise organization with various on-premises and cloud applications, you have data flowing through various business applications. You may be on the journey of "digital transformation." You may be looking for cloud migration or adoption. In all scenarios, it is very important that your applications talk to one another. It is important to have integrations between various applications, whether on-premises, in-the cloud, modern or legacy applications.
Bottom Line: Connected applications are a necessity for Digital Transformation.
To deal with the unscaled adoption of new applications, as well as to improve ability to connect everything in this new digital business environment, organizations need to think about integration as a strategic capability.
Traditionally, organizations use custom coding or write large scale programs to accomplish Point to Point (P2P) or simply stay connected from one application to another. In some scenarios, organizations do a good job with custom development for integrating their small number of applications, but custom coded P2P can become a big headache when organizations grow and deal with large number of applications. Major issues that can arise with custom coded P2P solutions are:
- Any changes in Application APIs, JSON / data structure result in re-development and testing in case P2P integrations
- P2P integrations quickly become unmanageable, brittle and damaging to both the IT budget and the organization’s ability to meet current and changing business needs
- P2P integrations result in high development and maintenance costs and poor performance
- Data security can be a big pain area in P2P custom integration
To overcome the pain of custom coding, many product companies have developed Integration Platforms which are ready to use with very little or near zero coding.
So, the first question to ask yourself is, "When should I look for an integration platform?"
Drivers for iPaaS:
Here are few drivers which may be relevant for you:
- Alignment with Digital Cloud transformation and adoption strategy
- Ease of use and maintainability
- Reduced TCO (licensing costs) as compared to on-premises solutions
- Ability to handle hybrid/co-existence scenarios
- On-Premises to Cloud
- On-Premises to On-Premises
- Low Code platform
- Support for various EDI formats and data standards
- Limited infrastructure overhead
- High data security and compliance
- Seamless platform/product upgrades with minimal cost overheads
- Single platform for multiple business needs
- Point-to-point integration (P2P)
- Master Data Management (Data Synchronization)
- API Management
- Workflow Management
If your business strategy or IT needs fall under any of the drivers mentioned above, you should begin to look out for an integration platform!
There are many leading integration platforms on the market, so you may be confused as to which one is suitable for your organization. I will try to simplify things for you based on my own expertise and experience with various iPaaS products.
I suggest making your selection criteria or iPaaS evaluation in 4 main steps:
Step 1: Look out for Core Features/Desired Capabilities
There are various features you should be looking for in an integration platform. An integration platform as a service or iPaaS should have the following desired capabilities or core features:
- Pre-built generic connectors / Adaptors (http, FTP, SMTP, REST, SOAP, Web Server, Database, OData etc.)
- Application connectors/adapters for SaaS and on-premises packaged applications (Salesforce, Oracle, NetSuite, SuccessFactors, Workday, SAP, Coupa etc.)
- Supported Data formats (XML, JSON, Flat File etc.)
- Supported Data standards (EDIFACT, HL7, SWIFT, etc.)
- Real Time and Batch processing capabilities
- Support for API Authentication and Authorization
- API Life cycle management
- Data mapping and transformation (ETL) capabilities as out of box features
- Mapping suggest/recommendation engine
- Bulk data processing
- CI/CD integration capabilities
- Custom Connector development kit or SDK
- Routing and orchestration
- Integration flow development and life cycle management tools
- Integration flow operational monitoring and management
- Full life cycle API management
- Data synchronization or MDM capabilities (On need basis)
- Trading Partners integration
- Dashboard and Reporting
Step 2: Comparison among Various iPaaS Once you have shortlisted a few integration platforms or iPaaS based on generic capabilities, it’s time to compare each platform and narrow down further. There are various parameters which can help you compare platforms. The important parameters are:
- Architecture. You should check if the integration platform has multi-tenant architecture or not. Multi-tenant architecture should be more robust and the same for all users/customers of a particular product company. With multi-tenant architecture, you will ensure that you are using one version of the integration platform which is used by all of the users or organizations using the respective integration platform as a service or iPaaS.
- Ease of Use and Skillset Dependency. You should evaluate how easy implementation is of an integration platform. You should go with the platform which provides you near to zero coding needs so that you won’t need to hire a dedicated high-cost team to implement and maintain your integrations. Nowadays, most of the iPaaS is coming with drag-n-drop UI experience. It will help in reducing the implementation time and faster to market. It can help in your overall TCO for development and maintenance.
- Addressing Complex Requirements. You should evaluate the out-of-the-box features for ETL / data transformation capabilities. You should be looking for out-of-the-box functions ani business rules for complex data transformation so that you won’t need to write complex codes.
- AI Capabilities. Most of the integration platforms go through frequent upgrades. During the upgrade, product companies might add new features (like new connectors, security upgrades etc.) or fix any prior issues. You should look for an integration platform which has a record of zero to minimum impact on existing integrations. A bad selection will result in heavy re-engineering effort on platform upgrades.
- Data Security. When you use an integration platform, you should ensure that your data or critical information is not flowing through the cloud and the integration platform is complaint with security norms.
- High Volume Data Processing. One of most important parameters you should look for is the capability of an integration platform to process high volume data in seconds. The integration platform should support batch processing and should be able to handle very high-volume requests.
- Licensing Costs. There are various licensing models and pricing offered by various integration product companies. The pricing may be based on connectors, CPU usage, data volume etc. I would recommend the connector-based pricing as it will not limit you on CPU usages. You should do your due-diligence on how many applications you are going to integrate and so many connectors you need. Compare the cost among various iPaaS. You should make sure that you are getting unlimited records processing capabilities and no constraints on data volume.
- Case Studies. It’s always good to go through the case studies of each of the shortlisted iPaaS or integration platforms. You should evaluate which iPaaS or integration platform is used by reputed organizations, organizations in your business domain, and organizations with similar or the same type of applications you have.
- Product Roadmap. It’s always a good idea to research the product roadmap plan. There are many iPaaS products on the market and you should make sure that the product you are choosing has a strong future roadmap plan.
Step 3: Proof of Concept (PoC)
At this stage, you would have very few may be 2-3 shortlisted iPaaS or integration platforms. This is the right time to go for a Proof of Concept (PoC) on the shortlisted platform which aligns with your critical use cases. During the PoC, you should get a deeper look on the integration platform capabilities. You should get to know which platform is easier to implement and most supports your needs. It’s always good to have a PoC done on the same use cases on shortlisted platforms. It will help in un-biased comparison and making the right decision.
Step 4: Get Recommendation from System Integrator
Get in touch with a product agnostic System Implementation Partner like Jade Global for un-biased recommendations. Ask for their case studies and expertise on various iPaaS.
About Jade Global’s Integration Practice
Jade Global, a Certified System Integrator Partner of leading Integration Platforms, specializes in implementing enterprise grade solutions for all types of integration needs including A2A, EAI, EDI, B2B, ETL, MDM and API management. We specialize in implementing multiple middleware systems such as Boomi, Jitterbit, Mulesoft, Oracle Integration Cloud, Oracle SOA, TIBCO among many others as per the organization’s IT and business needs. Our Integration Practice provides the flexibility to integrate Cloud as well as on-premises applications, giving a faster time-to-value with increased efficiency and simplified reporting. Download datasheet: Cloud Integration and Pass
About the Author
Vinit Verma, Global Practice Head – Digital Platforms & Solutions | Boomi | Snowflake
Vinit Verma is Global Practice head for Boomi and Snowflake Practice at Jade Global. With over 18 years of IT consulting experience, Vinit has been helping small to large organizations build a connected and data-driven business.
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