SaaS, or Software as a Service, has given companies the ability to leverage applications on the Cloud with a simple and predictable subscription-based payment model. With its increasing popularity, organizations have identified additional challenges in keeping all of their data synchronized with their Master Data Management Systems (MDMS) or simply to keep data in-synch across various SaaS systems, proprietary applications living on public or private Clouds, and systems living on-premise in their private data centers.
To address these challenges, companies are forced to dedicate resources or hire consultants to perform complex (and unrepeatable) integration efforts to avoid, for example, duplication of entry of customer information (purchase, profiles, payment history) with their various systems on and off the Cloud. They have been dealing with and, through pain-staking efforts, trying to break “cloud silos” that don’t communicate with each other.
Enter iPaaS. iPaaS, or Integration Platform as a Service, is the emerging industry, like SaaS/PaaS/IaaS/XaaS, providing a multi-tenant Platform following a subscription-based payment and usage model to integrate your systems ensuring data consistency across your systems. These platforms provide easy-to-use user interfaces to connect to your systems on the Cloud (SaaS or proprietary systems on IaaS environments) and on-premise and provide ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) services to manipulate the data, as needed, and synchronize bi-directionally across all systems and data warehouses in your portfolio. These platforms have the ability for your engineers or consultants to write custom connectors or utilize packaged solutions available with the platform or in their various marketplaces to utilize off-the-shelf integration with popular services such as Salesforce, Oracle, Akamai, Facebook, Twitter, SAP, Amazon EC2, etc.
There are several players in the iPaaS industry, including MuleSoft’s CloudHub, Dell’s Boomi, Informatica, TIBCO Cloud Bus, Cast Iron by IBM, and SnapLogic to name just a few. I will talk briefly about two of them which have caught my attention:
While exploring the various iPaaS providers out there, you will find many similarities in their services, support and SLAs, pricing, as well as the UI and User Experience of their Platforms themselves! Choosing the right solution involves factors which differentiate these platforms. A good measure for you can be to evaluate the SaaS systems and environments they support out of the box and their customizability to fit your specific needs. SnapLogic, like all iPaaS providers, provides integration for Salesforce, ServiceNow, Social Media, Big Data, and with Amazon services. They have a marketplace known as the SnapStore which contains over 150 Snaps, or packaged solutions, for sale that provide powerful wizards to integrate with their target applications. This includes mechanisms for both connectivity and basic CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations bi-directionally from their source platform (i.e. on-premise Purchase Order System) to their destination (i.e. Salesforce). Note: TIBCO Cloud Bus also has such a marketplace through their Integration Packs, QuickConnect and Connectors. SnapLogic simply has more readily available at the moment, which is why I’ve highlighted them.
Like other platforms, the SnapLogic platform is web-based and utilizes drag-and-drop functionality to map your data from source platforms to destinations and write to audit file systems to track the synchronization requests and their results between your systems. The UI is especially intuitive and easy to use.
Dell Boomi also integrates with several SaaS systems, both on-Cloud and on-premise. It, like SnapLogic, has a very easy to use web-based interface, with intuitive drag-and-drop functionality. The UI also allows you to easily create mapping objects from source to target and perform any data conversions necessary before writing them out to their destination. They were also the first integration platform to be certified by SAP.
A differentiating feature of Boomi is they capture all metadata from all of their customers on the platform and aggregate a standard set containing mappings, standard functions for data transformation, manipulation, joining, and conversion rules as necessary and make them available for all of their customers. This allows your developers or consultants to save considerable time and effort coding conversion functions and data point mapping objects that many others have already done. This “community” approach is a great way of setting Boomi apart from the others. It provides a mechanism for automating the setup for your integration without purchasing add-ons. And if your organization follows fairly standard implementations of SaaS and on-premise solutions, this can make your entire integration be complete in a matter of days.
With your on-premise data behind firewalls in various data centers, Boomi’s runtime environment for the integration lives on what they call “Atoms.” These Atoms can be deployed behind your firewall to capture and write to your MDMS and other on-premise systems, which is not an uncommon feature from other iPaaS providers. That said, the Atom supports a decentralized (or distributed) integration capability. They allow you to have multiple Atoms (worldwide) to address multiple integrations to and from different data center locations. This will also ensure your systems remain compliant if regional restrictions apply depending on industry or the type of data being integrated.
There are many providers out there but I wanted to highlight Boomi and SnapLogic as two that stand out based on discussions I’ve had. Choosing the correct iPaaS provider will require research and a clear understanding of your environment and systems to determine which providers have solutions that fit your network landscape and your SaaS and IaaS providers. If internal resources are scarce, Cloud Services Brokerage firms such as NTT DATA can be called upon to help with the evaluation and selection process, as well as to implement and maintain the integration platform. You cannot afford downtime so choose wisely and don’t be afraid to solicit help. The loss of data integrity and consistency could cost you more than just delays—it can cost you sales.
iPaaS platforms have given CIOs the ability to aggressively drive Cloud migration strategies forward agnostically. By reducing and removing fear of vendor lock-in, these organizations can successfully achieve resiliency and make platform and service decisions intelligently without concern over complex integration phases. Take advantage of iPaaS so you can take advantage of Cloud Computing’s free market competition and the innovation it will continue to bring. Good luck in your journey!
-CJ Kadakia, Director, Cloud Advisory Services – Applications Strategist
Post Date: 2013-11-07