Integration Platform as a Service, the new kid on the integration block

iPaaS is still a fast-moving market segment. What does it do and who are the players?

For the third year in a row, analyst firm Gartner published last week its Magic Quadrant report of the "Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service" market, more commonly referred to by the iPaaS acronym.

What is an iPaaS?

The Gartner definition is a good (and precise) one: Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a cloud service that provides a platform to support application, data and process integration projects, usually involving a combination of cloud-based applications and data sources, APIs and on-premises systems.

In other terms, it's an integration product that runs in the public cloud and is managed by the vendor. Usually it's provided to its users as a multi-tenant service. In most cases it's used to integrated SaaS applications, either with other SaaS applications, or with on-premises systems.

For example:

  • Synchronizing customer records between Salesforce and Netsuite (both SaaS)
  • Sending service orders from Service Now (SaaS) to SAP (on-prem)
  • Extracting sales data from Salesforce (SaaS) to the enterprise data warehouse (on-prem or in the cloud)

Not a cloud-only solution

Despite been provided "as a Service", iPaaS does not run only in the cloud. Of course, to be defined as iPaaS, an integration solution must be accessible in the cloud. It usually makes sense for it to be provisioned automatically, and to run in multi-tenant architecture for maximum density.

However an iPaaS is often used to integrate cloud/SaaS applications to on-premises systems (as in two of the three examples above), and conceptually it could also integrate on-premises to on-premises (although this may not be the best architecture for this latter case).

Some iPaaS have their runtime entirely in the cloud, some will use a distributed runtime to split the workload between the iPaaS' "own" runtime and an agent installed on-prem. This is used when:

  • Security protocols mandate that some authentication must be performed locally or that certain data does not leave the premises before been anonymized
  • The amount of data to transfer is important and aggregations/computations can be performed more efficiently on-prem

Who are the players?

Gartner identifies five leaders in the Magic Quadrant: Dell Boomi, Informatica, MuleSoft, SnapLogic, and Jitterbit. Informatica and MuleSoft are multipurpose integration vendors with broad offerings and iPaaS is only one of their building blocks. Conversely, Boomi, SnapLogic, and Jitterbit are the "veterans" of iPaaS, created before the term was coined.

What's interesting is that the "big 4" (Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, and IBM) are lagging in execution, having only come to the space more recently, and other significant integration vendors such as Talend and Tibco did not meet the admission criteria because their products are too recent. (Disclaimer: I used to work for Talend).

Consumer vs. enterprise iPaaS

Gartner's report only covers "Enterprise iPaaS." There is however another class of providers, sometimes dubbed "Consumer iPaaS" that are very easy to use but conversely offer less advanced capabilities and less flexibility. The two most common ones are IFTTT and Zapier. While these tools feature connectors to consumer products such as Nest thermostats, GE appliances or Fitbit fitness trackers, they also connect to Salesforce, Stripe, or Amazon Redshift. The difference is therefore less clear-cut than the report says.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.