What is an iPaaS?
An iPaaS is a cloud-based integration solution which has pre-built tools for building and deploying integrations between cloud (or on-prem) based applications. An iPaaS generally enables basic connectivity to enterprise applications and the transfer and transformation of data between them.
The proposed benefits of an iPaaS are that they include all the tools necessary for the development and execution of integrations, support lifecycle management and monitoring of integrations, enable the application of business logic and are mostly elastic in design and scale well with workloads.
Unfortunately, while much progress has been made into the capabilities of these platforms, they often come with a range of downsides which leads to poor outcomes for customers.
Whilst these platforms are improving with time, today’s iPaaS platforms often lack the full set of features required for data operations and business logic that a company requires to meet its specific needs.
Firstly, there is a problem of missing connectivity. Some enterprise applications require the use of custom / proprietary connectors which an iPaaS does not have, which then must be built or added at additional cost.
Secondly, extracting data from one system and inserting it into another is only part of the solution. When data transformations and business logic are required, the solutions provided to achieve these are often clumsy and require additional programming skills in unfamiliar or proprietary coding languages to deliver the goods.
iPaaS vendors advocate for their solution by claiming that citizen developers can make use of their low-code or no-code solution. On the surface, these platforms are ‘easy to use’ but many customers quickly realize this not completely the case. Without appropriately trained staff / contractors to deliver the outcomes required, the platform will fail to deliver a real ROI with development times and costs blowing out.
New users of iPaaS platforms face a learning curve like that of learning a new programming language, and considerable investment is required to do anything other than very basic tasks.
When considering the challenge of lacking features this problem is further exacerbated. Customers buy into the platform expecting a full feature set, however, inevitably require to the support of qualified platform-certified developers to achieve anything other than a rudimentary outcome.
Integrations built on an iPaaS by citizen developers may lack the appropriate governance required for enterprise grade software solutions. While there may be advertised benefits for rapid development, the lack of versioning and staged deployment as core functionalities means that developers may be required to rebuild solutions when moving from development into production. Without the right tools like CI/CD pipelines and Git / repositories, keeping track of changes to the solution becomes difficult over time, meaning customers are locked into working with those who originally built the solution.
One of the selling points of iPaaS is the enablement of citizen developers, however with this comes a greater risk of exposure of data. Care must be taken with all deployments that security policies have been implemented, connections to data sources are secured and API keys are appropriately managed. Without appropriate training an organization’s data is at risk. This is especially true since most iPaaS solutions involve moving data from your existing secured corporate network across the internet into a third party tool.
For most customers and iPaaS might look like a simple way to integrate systems. After all, the marketing around these platforms does a great job of talking up the benefits. But after a short period of use it becomes increasingly clear that instead of simplifying the process, an iPaaS creates an additional layer of complexity. One which, for enterprise integrations, leads to substantial business risks and higher cost of maintenance. If you're interested in learning how you can get the benefits of a serverless solution for integrations, solutions that are clearly documented and mitigate business risk, then come have a chat.