These days organizations commonly rely upon dozens of databases, applications, and third-party services for powering critical business infrastructure such as web and mobile applications, business analytics, and customer outreach initiatives. Examples of such indispensable technologies include Microsoft SQL Server, Salesforce, and Intercom. Because this operational infrastructure can’t operate effectively in a silo, companies increasingly require ways to interweave the data managed therein, creating software-based bridges known as *integrations*.
Examples of such integrations include:
- Creating or updating a new customer record in Salesforce every time your e-commerce store processed a new sale.
- A dashboard that retrieves data from multiple third-party data sources such as Intercom, Pipedrive, and MySQL.
- Accessing a legacy database or other technology that otherwise lacks a modern programmatic interface.
However, the process associated with building these sorts of integrations is often highly technical in nature and fraught with error. For starters, developers must devote the time necessary to learn the data source APIs (application programming interface), or worse actually manually code APIs in cases where they don’t already exist. Additionally, the requisite steps must be taken to ensure the integration is secure, stable, and well documented.
To alleviate these challenges, organizations are increasingly turning to an automated solution known as an iPaaS.
What is iPaaS?
An Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a solution for building, deploying, and managing an organization’s data integrations. Key features include:
- Security: A range of authentication solutions (API keys, OpenID Connect, SAML, Active Directory) allows developers to apply authentication requirements on a per-API basis. Additionally, request limiting can be applied to reduce the possibility of data exfiltration or unwarranted third-party access.
- Documentation: All integrations are documentable, ideally using a standardized solution such as the OpenAPI Specification (OAS).
- Multi-protocol support: Because integrations aren’t always limited to HTTP, iPaaS solutions also support other protocols such as SFTP and SMTP.
- Interaction: Integration requests and responses can be inspected and manipulated using robust programmatic solutions. Ideally mainstream programming languages can be used for adding business logic to the data flow.
- Multi-tenancy: Multiple data integrations can be managed within the same platform in a secure and performant manner.
- Governance: iPaaS solutions provide numerous tools useful for ensuring corporate and regulatory compliance with laws such as GDPR.
- Scalability: iPaaS solutions can be scaled to satisfy even the most ambitious API volume demands.
iPaaS provides a “single pane of glass” through which an IT team can build, monitor, and maintain all of an organization’s data integrations. This is advantageous because a unified solution can dramatically reduce the time, expense, and risk otherwise associated with data integrations. Furthermore, a unified solution can greatly reduce chaos otherwise associated with staff turnover thanks to the implementation conventions enforced through the iPaaS.
API Generation is Crucial
One key feature lacking within many iPaaS solutions is API generation. While the aforementioned features undoubtedly provide significant benefits, a lot of team momentum can be lost due to the need to manually code the APIs required to interact with databases and other services. DreamFactory’s array of native API generation connectors can generate full-featured and documented APIs for a wide variety of data sources, including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, Amazon S3, SFTP servers, IoT devices, and more.
Does My Company Need an iPaaS?
Your company may benefit from an iPaaS if there is a pressing need to integrate multiple applications and data sources. An iPaaS solution will provide your team with a consistent, secure, and scalable means for repeatedly building out new integrations, and ensure best practices are embraced throughout.
How Much Does an iPaaS Cost?
iPaaS licensing costs can vary dramatically according to the product. Annual DreamFactory licensing fees start at just a few thousand dollars, whereas solutions such as MuleSoft can easily stretch into the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.
iPaaS Security and Compliance Considerations
Gone are the days where opening up access to data sources via an API key was considered a satisfactory if not outright magical solution. Modern federated access requirements and a necessary audit trail may have eliminated some of that magic, however given the very real security challenges faced by today’s IT teams it is crucial to enforce rigorous data access controls. DreamFactory offers a suite of data access controls capable of ensuring your data is accessed in accordance with business policy. Some of these features include:
- Role-based access controls (RBAC): DreamFactory can restrict API access to specific endpoints and even HTTP verbs.
- Real-time analytics: API logs can be sent to a wide array of popular logging solutions including Elasticsearch and Splunk.
- Flexible authentication: Wide-ranging support for enterprise authentication solutions means API access can be restricted using Active Directory, LDAP, Okta, Auth0, AWS Cognito, OpenID Connect, and OAuth.
The DreamFactory platform is responsible for powering mission-critical applications within a wide array of industries, including banking, computer hardware and software, government, retail, and logistics. Our team has provided API consulting services to thousands of companies around the globe, and would love to learn more about your project. Contact us to schedule a free consultation session!