With the explosion of cloud services, microservices – and the increasing demands of digital transformation – enterprises are adding and removing business applications at a breakneck pace.
Most large businesses are juggling an average of 788 custom business applications, and the number is growing.
To solve the “impossible” task of integrating the data in all these apps – and prevent apps from being siloed off into their respective departments – integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is automating the process of building app connections in the cloud-services era. In fact, the most advanced iPaaS solutions can generate REST APIs automatically. This empowers developers to establish fast, secure integrations in minutes (not weeks).
But with everyone talking about the benefits of iPaaS, aren’t there any challenges? Below, we’ll take an honest look at both the pros and cons of iPaaS – so you can determine if this technology is right for your needs.
- iPaaS Pros
- iPaaS Cons
If you’re managing hundreds of cloud-based apps – or millions of IoT endpoints – the following “pros” of iPaaS technology may spark your interest:
1. Rapid integrations and automatic REST API generation for cloud apps and microservices:
An iPaaS like DreamFactory eliminates – or significantly reduces – the coding requirements for app integrations by automatically generating REST APIs for cloud services. It takes an average of 34 days to hand-code a single, non-standardized API. But the DreamFactory iPaaS can bypass this bottleneck and expose your data in minutes.
As an example of this at work, Intel developer Edo Williams used DreamFactory to streamline the migration of Intel’s main internal reporting system to a SAP Business Objects solution:
“Williams installed the open-source DreamFactory platform locally on his MacBook, using a dedicated Mac OS X package from the Bitnami website. From the admin interface he connected securely to a MySQL database instance he had set up for his project. DreamFactory then automatically generated a comprehensive MySQL REST API for the database. The entire setup process took less than ten minutes: from installation to using the live REST API for his new application.”
According to Williams, “DreamFactory streamlines everything and makes it easy to concentrate on building your frontend application. I had found something that was just click, click, click…connect, and you’re good to go.”
2. Cost-effective app connections:
The average enterprise develops and deploys 37 new applications per year. Building integrations for all these apps and their data represents a massive cost expenditure – as much as $17,000 for a single, custom API (check out our API cost calculator). An iPaaS can eliminate the bulk of these costs through automatic API generation.
Watch this video to see how easy it is to generate APIs for a MySQL server.
4. Greater business agility:
An iPaaS offers the agility to add and remove cloud-apps and microservices without incurring significant business risk. By eliminating the costs, delays, and labor associated with new app connections, your enterprise has greater agility to quickly respond to changing business needs.
And what if the newly-added app or service isn’t beneficial? Removing it does not represent a tremendous loss of time, energy, and money. This level of agility is a must for all modern enterprises.
5. Support for lightweight messaging protocols:
iPaaS platforms are optimized for handling modern document and messaging protocols like REST, JSON, and XLM. These document-based messaging formats enable lightweight or “loose” communication with APIs – a necessity for connecting cloud-based applications and microservices.
Document-based messaging offers the following benefits for those using iPaaS technology:
- Better integrations with web services
- More efficient and loosely coupled pipelines
- Facilitates pipeline reuse
- Records are a subset of documents
6. Better data compliance and security:
iPaaS solutions offer advanced security and governance technology. The DreamFactory iPaaS features:
- GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA compliance
- Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).
- Authentication through OpenID Connect, Active Directory, and OAuth
- Advanced API logging capabilities
As an example of iPaaS security in action, we can turn to the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA). LACDA is using the security features of the DreamFactory iPaaS to manage and allocate the information in its electronic tenant application, which receives applications for Section 8 housing.
DreamFactory allows LACDA to establish access to API endpoints internally. Moreover, the platform’s ability to “unify, secure, and designate admin users for RESTful APIs is streamlining the process of upgrading their [LACDA’s] tenant application.”
7. Real-time, high-volume connections and near real-time processing:
As a cloud-based integration platform, iPaaS technology brings the massive power and horizontal scalability of cloud computing to your business app integrations. As a bridge to cloud computing’s high-volume, real-time data connections, and near-real-time processing speeds, your iPaaS solution will connect your enterprise to the world of advanced AI and ML business analytics.
8. Excellent for handling IoT workloads:
An IoT network can involve millions of IoT endpoints and massive inflows of real-time data. As a cloud-based solution, an iPaaS offers the unlimited horizontal scalability these IoT workloads require.
The DreamFactory iPaaS includes a native MQTT connector for establishing IoT network integrations with logging capabilities, live API documentation, API orchestration, role-service-access, and a security layer.
Watch this webinar to explore DreamFactory’s IoT stack in-depth.
To harness the benefits of iPaaS technology, you have to manage the biggest challenges that come with it. Here are the “cons” of iPaaS:
1. A confusing array of iPaaS options:
With a large pool of vendors offering cloud-based app integration tools – like DreamFactory, Dell Boomi, Informatica, Mulesoft, IBM App Connect, and Jitterbit – you may have a difficult time choosing between the options. The fact that the iPaaS vertical lacks clarity on the base-level features to expect from an “iPaaS” doesn’t help with your selection process.
You can start with Gartner’s definition of iPaaS:
“Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.”
But as Steven Bigelow from TechTarget points out:
“The goal of any iPaaS platform is to connect applications and data sets, but there is no single, universal set of features and functionality that’s essential for every iPaaS offering.”
Tech review websites bring further confusion. G2Crowd’s includes a variety of ETL/ELT platforms, like Xplenty and Skyvia, under its list of iPaaS solutions, but Xplenty and Skyvia focus on digital transformations for data warehouses and business intelligence tools, not necessarily app integrations.
Then there are the ESB/iPaaS hybrids, like Mulesoft and IBM App Connect, which offer the widest range of app and data connectivity services. However, these hybrid solutions serve both iPaaS and ESB use cases, so Mulesoft and IBM App Connect are actually an expensive superset of iPaaS – one that offers a host of high-cost features that some organizations may not require.
For the above reasons, it’s important to perform in-depth research to ensure you’re selecting the right “iPaaS” for your needs.
2. Greater potential for human error and the risk of accidental data exposure:
The easy-to-use tools of an iPaaS can empower individual departments to handle data integrations instead of your IT team. However, this could be putting too much power in the hands of team members who don’t know enough about app integration, data security, and compliance.
IT professions and integration specialists know they’re playing with fire any time they expose REST API to build an app integration. Only your IT professionals and integration specialists understand the full gravity of terms like GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, RBAC, OAuth, and API logging – your untrained team members won’t immediately “get it.”
As the Wall Street Journal points out:
“Poor security practices, complicated controls and rushed technology programs are causing a rash of data breaches stemming from the use of cloud services, experts say. Both users and cloud providers could be doing more to prevent them.”
“Hackers are going after servers that haven’t been set up correctly, allowing them to view sensitive information and extract it with minimal effort, according to cybersecurity experts.”
And as Gartner affirms:
“In nearly all cases, it is the user, not the cloud provider, who fails to manage the controls used to protect an organization’s data … Through 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.”
Don’t let the “user-friendliness” of this technology fool you into thinking that “anyone” can do iPaaS. Before building iPaaS integrations, non-IT employees need careful training on the data compliance for your industry – such as GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, SOC2 – and how to safeguard payment card information (PCI), personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), and more. Users need ironclad procedures for using iPaaS technology to prevent the risk of human error and accidental data exposure.
Experience the Power of iPaaS with DreamFactory
Now that you understand the range of benefits and potential challenges of iPaaS, how about experiencing the power of iPaaS for yourself?
DreamFactory is an open-source iPaaS platform that allows you to generate REST APIs from any data source in minutes. If you’d like to try DreamFactory out for yourself, sign up for a free hosted trial – or contact one of our integration specialists to discuss how DreamFactory can help you overcome your integration challenges.
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