With the relative newness of the iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) vertical, no single platform has emerged as the de facto choice for enterprises. This can present a challenge if you’re trying to choose among the large pool of solutions available – especially when certain solutions labeled “iPaaS” serve very different use-cases.
To help you sort through the rich sea of available products, this guide starts by organizing the market into four categories. Then it discusses each category in detail – and the specific vendors offering solutions in those categories – so you can focus on the solution that best fits your business requirements.
Defining the 4 Categories: Which Kind Does Your Organization Need?
The canon definition of iPaaS by Gartner is an excellent starting point, as it offers a general description of the space:
“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.”
However, as TechTarget points out, “there is no single, universal set of features and functionality that’s essential for every offering.” As such, it’s important to divide the iPaaS vertical into four distinct categories before considering your options.
Taking these two definitions into consideration, we’ve identified the following four categories on the market today:
- Simple: Easy, point-and-click connectors for basic workflow automation.
- True: Powerful tools for API creation/management, app integrations, and complex workflows.
- Hybrid ESB: Platforms that offer both ESB and iPaaS technology.
- Industry-Specific: iPaaS for connecting apps in specific industries like education, human resources, and financial services.
Now let’s explore these categories in more detail.
1. Simple Automation: Easy, Point-and-Click Connectors for Basic Workflow Automation
The “Simple Automation iPaaS” category includes Zapier and Integromat. These are kind of like iPaaS on training wheels because they offer a very user-friendly way to connect apps and building workflows between them.
Here are the basic characteristics of simple:
- Little tech knowledge is required.
- Select from a large pool of prebuilt connectors to establish automatic integrations between web-based and cloud-based applications.
- Build point-and-click workflows (business logic tasks) with an intuitive interface.
- Developers can independently build connectors to add their apps into these platforms, which exposes their apps to a wider audience.
Here are some limitations of simple:
- Integrations and workflows can sometimes experience bugs, especially when scaling the level of complexity.
- You’re largely limited to using the officially supported apps.
Leading Simple Automation Solutions
The leading Simple Automation iPaaS is Zapier:
- Zapier: With a reputation for ease of use, Zapier provides users with a simple, affordable solution for creating workflow automations between applications. With a primary focus on easy, clickable tools, Zapier offers more than 1,500 out-of-the-box integrations that you can use to automate simple busywork. Zapier calls these automated workflows “zaps.” Read more about Zapier here.
- Integromat: Integromat features a drag-and-drop, codeless interface for setting up application integration and automations. A notable feature of Integromat is its utility in handling looping and arrays. While this platform is known for allowing more complex logic, it takes more experience to use than Zapier, especially when resolving automation failures and other errors. Read more about Integromat here.
Key takeaways: Simple Automation iPaaS can serve many valuable use-cases. They don’t require much in the way of tech skills, they’re secure, and they’re very affordable. That being said, you may need to upgrade to an advanced iPaaS if your needs require greater flexibility, or if the apps you want to connect are not found on their platforms.
2. True iPaaS: Tools for API Creation/Management, App Integrations, and Complex Workflows
The “True iPaaS” category includes DreamFactory, Dell Boomi, and Jitterbit. From a developer’s perspective, these tools offer user-friendly, no-code and low-code interfaces that facilitate rapid API development, app integration, and the building of IoT infrastructure.
Here are the basic characteristics of True:
- No-code and low-code tools for developers and integration specialists.
- Streamline the process of creating/publishing APIs.
- Prebuilt connectors to facilitate the integration of cloud-based applications, web app, on-prem applications, and IoT endpoint integrations.
- Features to meet data compliance standards like HIPAA and GDPR.
- Role-based access control (RBAC) to specify what information to share under which circumstances.
- Supports the design of complex, high-volume business logic workflows.
- One iPaaS in this category (DreamFactory) has the unique capacity to automatically generate REST APIs from any database.
Here are some limitations of True:
- Although solutions found in this category are easier to use than the hybrid ESB/iPaaS category (below), they require more technical experience than the Simple Automation iPaaS category.
- Users must carefully manage access control and data security to prevent the inadvertent exposure of sensitive data.
- True iPaaS may have fewer native connectors than Simple iPaaS, so you should review the available integrations carefully to ensure that the ones you need are included in your selected platform.
Leading True Solutions
Here are the leading “True iPaaS” solutions:
DreamFactory iPaaS was designed to be the fastest, securest way to integrate data and applications on the web, cloud, or ground. The most unique feature of DreamFactory is its ability to automate the REST API creation process, so you can develop, publish, and manage APIs in a matter of minutes. DreamFactory offers the following features: live API docs, support for SFTP, SOAP, e-mail, deep SQL, an MQTT connector for IoT endpoints, compliance with standards (like GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, etc.), role-based access control (RBAC), flexible support for popular enterprise authentication solutions, and a great deal more. Offering both cloud-based and on-premise versions, you’re free to choose the solution that best fits your company needs. Learn more about DreamFactory here.
Dell Boomi is a well-known iPaaS solution that offers a suite of tools for cloud-based app integration and API management. Boomi supports traditional and modern EDI communication standards such as XML, EDIFACT, X12, RosettaNet, HC7, Tradacoms, and it also lets you define your own standards. It also supports trading partner communications through AS2, Web Services that use SOAP or HTML, and FTP/Secure FTP. Learn more about Dell Boomi here.
Jitterbit is an iPaaS known for its user-friendly interface and lower price point. In addition to offering enterprise-level capabilities, Jitterbit is also appropriate for small and medium-sized businesses. This platform empowers organizations to quickly connect their mobile, social, on-premises, and cloud-based applications. Something that set’s Jitterbit apart is its incorporation of ETL (extract, transform, load) tools that offer basic data loading features. Learn more about Jitterbit here.
Celigo features 150+ pre-built integrations to connect a wide variety of the most common cloud-apps and data. Celigo features a host of tools that allow you to build and share custom stacks, create tokens for direct API calls, set up your own wrapper, and other features. One advantage of Celigo is the free version of the platform, which lets you start using the platform without cost and upgrade to a paid version as needed. Learn more about Celigo here.
True iPaaS solutions make the integration specialist’s job easier by dramatically speeding up the process of building, publishing, and managing APIs. Solutions found in this category require less training and expertise compared to the next category (hybrid ESB/iPaaS), but they are still built for developers. The true iPaaS category also comes into play when your enterprise needs to create APIs for a broader variety of apps/data, and when your workflows demand complex business logic.
3. Hybrid ESB/iPaaS: Platforms that offer both technologies
The “Hybrid ESB/iPaaS” category includes solutions like Mulesoft and IBM App Connect. These tools can achieve all of the iPaaS-related tasks listed in the first two categories, in addition to serving ESB (enterprise service bus) use cases.
Here are the basic characteristics of Hybrid ESB:
- Serves all ESB use-cases.
- Capacity to handle messaging standards for medical, and insurance industries.
- Manages connections for on-premises monolith applications.
- Can serve as the backbone for complex IT infrastructures.
- iPaaS tools for connecting cloud-based apps.
- Tools for building workflow automation routines.
- Developer features for creating, publishing, and managing APIs.
Here are some limitations of Hybrid ESB:
- The costs and user training required for Hybrid ESB/iPaaS platforms are much higher than an iPaaS-only solution. Therefore, these solutions have a much higher bar of entry.
- The process of connecting cloud-based apps with a Hybrid ESB/iPaaS is slower than True iPaaS solutions, which means your business will be less agile when relying only on a Hybrid ESB/iPaaS for all of your cloud-app integration needs.
Leading Hybrid ESB/iPaaS
Here are the leading Hybrid ESB solutions:
- Mulesoft Anypoint: The MuleSoft Anypoint Platform offers wide-ranging support for integrating new applications, regardless of the technology or protocol – be it JDBC, JMS, Web Services, HTTP, or something else. Although MuleSoft is a feature-rich platform, it also comes with high costs and a steep learning curve. Before developers can use the platform to its full capacity, they’ll require extensive training – something that isn’t required with an iPaaS solution like DreamFactory. Read more about ESB in our article.
- IBM App Connect: IBM App Connect offers a wide variety of integration templates to help you connect all of the apps and data that your business relies on. As a hybrid ESB/iPaaS solution, App Connect allows you to create REST APIs. However, the API creation with App Connect requires a lot of manual coding. Read more on “What is ESB” in our article.
Key takeaways: Because most large enterprises are already using ESBs, many turn to Hybrid ESB/iPaaS to manage their cloud-app integrations. However, the costs and user training required for these platforms are much higher than an iPaaS-only solution. Many enterprises can save considerable time and money on API management and cloud-app integrations by using a True iPaaS – like DreamFactory, Jitterbit, or Dell Boomi – to supplement their existing ESB solution.
The “Industry-Specific iPaaS” category includes solutions like Modulus Data and SPS Commerce. Industry-specific iPaaS are geared toward providing app integrations for a target industry – such as healthcare, higher education, financial services, accounting services, insurance, and the medical industry.
Here are the basic characteristics of Industry-Specific:
- App integrations that support the unique requirements and messaging protocols of specific industries.
- Features that adhere to industry-specific security and compliance standards.
Here are some limitations of industry-specific:
- While focusing on one industry brings the advantages above, you may not need this level of granularity. The leading True iPaaS solutions are flexible enough to meet most use-cases, so make sure that you really need it before choosing an industry-specific solution.
Leading Industry-Specific iPaaS
Here are two examples of industry-specific iPaaS:
- Modulus Data (HR Industry): Modulus Data specializes in iPaaS integrations for Human Resources industry applications. The platform includes a wide variety of prebuilt integrations and security features – for common HR applications, and platforms like Monster, Greenhous and Workday.
- SPS Commerce (eCommerce Industry): SPS Commerce offers tools and solutions for the eCommerce industry, and integrations to assist in retail supply chain management. Whether you’re a retailer, supplier, distributor, eCommerce vendor, or grocer, SBS commerce offers many integration and automation solutions to help your business.
Key takeaways: Industry-specific iPaaS offer value to enterprises in industries that have unique standards and security requirements that a general iPaaS can’t serve. That being said, some of these solutions will not have the most up-to-date technological features, so it’s important to consider whether your industry-specific use-case is better serviced by a more general iPaaS platform.
Try the DreamFactory iPaaS for Free
Now that you have a better understanding of the categories of iPaaS available, and which categories the most popular iPaaS solutions fall under, you’re better prepared to select the right platform for your integration use-case.
If you’re currently searching for a “True iPaaS” solution, DreamFactory offers the unique capacity to automatically generate REST APIs from any database, allowing you to create and publish an API in minutes, rather than weeks. To try DreamFactory for yourself, contact us for a free trial now.
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iPaaS Use Cases: How Enterprises Are Using Integration Platform as a Service Technology, iPaaS Benefits: 8 Reasons Why Businesses Are Flocking to Integration Platform as a Service, What is iPaaS? Definition and Benefits, SnapLogic vs. DreamFactory: An iPaaS Comparison