There is a category of vendors on the rise in the API space; Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). The term is fairly new and there is some debate as to the definition and features of vendors that would be classified in the iPaaS category. This post is an overview of iPaaS and features several vendors that offer iPaaS solutions.
What is Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)?
In layman's terms iPaaS is a platform that allows users to connect applications across multiple web services and organizations and then deploy these integrations without having to install new hardware, software or create custom code.
The official Gartner IT Glossary definition of iPaaS is as follows:
"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."
Earlier this year, API Evangelist Kin Lane wrote a post about this trend in which he described these types of vendors as "a new generation of interoperability providers... companies that are offering simple services that provide interoperability and automation between cloud platforms, using APIs."
What is Driving the iPaaS Trend?
There are many recent technological trends and developments driving the need for iPaaS solutions. A few of the technological trends driving the rise of iPaaS are described in the Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013:
- Personal Cloud - The personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where individuals keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and center their digital lives.
- Internet of Things - The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that describes how the Internet will expand as physical items such as consumer devices and physical assets are connected to the Internet.
- Strategic Big Data - Big Data is moving from a focus on individual projects to an influence on enterprises’ strategic information architecture. This realization is leading organizations to abandon the concept of a single enterprise data warehouse containing all information needed for decisions. Instead they are moving towards multiple systems, including content management, data warehouses, data marts and specialized file systems tied together with data services and metadata, which will become the "logical" enterprise data warehouse.
APIs, web and mobile apps, cloud platforms, and other advances in technology are causing enormous amounts of data to be generated, shared and stored in data silos across many different types of applications and organizations. Data is becoming increasingly disconnected between web and cloud apps.
Examples of iPaaS Providers
Today there are quite a few companies providing iPaaS solutions and this post features six such companies. Some of the key features these companies have in common include:
- Pre-built integrations / connections to online service providers.
- Automation of many different types of repetitive business and social tasks.
- Wide selection of online service providers available.
- No software development or custom coding required.
- No programming or technical skills needed to use the service.
In October 2012 Nubera, a leading cloud apps management service provider, acquired cloud app integration company tarpipe and launched CloudWork. The CloudWork platform makes it possible for business, social and other cloud applications to connect to eachother allowing key business processes and repetitive tasks to be consolidated and automated.
The Cloudwork platform features a large collection of pre-built integrations that are thoroughly tested and do not require programming or technical skills to use and implement. At the time of this writing, CloudWork offers connections to over 80 online service providers including Box, Constant Contact, DocuSign, Evernote, FreshBooks, GitHub, Gmail, Magento, MailChimp, PayPal, Podio, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Trello, Twilio, and WooFoo.
Co-Founder and CEO of Nubera Christophe Primault, comments on the launch of CloudWork in the official announcement:
"CloudWork solves a big problem that small and mid-size companies face every day: It lets the business and social media apps they rely on finally talk to each other. Integrating your apps improves workflows and increases productivity. CloudWork makes a company’s apps work harder so the team can focus on what’s really important."
In December 2010, Linden Tibbets developed and founded IFTTT, a platform that allows users to connect two individual applications together using one simple statement "if this then that."
IFTTT features over 65 online service providers which are called channels and are the basic building blocks of the IFTTT service. Each channel has unique triggers and actions associated with it and users are able to create connections between applications by combining a trigger and an action from their active channels (these combinations are called personal recipes). Personal recipes can be turned on and off by the user and there is no coding required or technical knowledge needed to use the IFTTT service.
The current list of available channels includes App.net, bitly, Blogger, Box, Etsy, Evernote, Facebook, Feedly, Gmail, Instagram, Pocket, Tumblr, Twitter, and Vimeo.
MuleSoft launched CloudHub in February 2011 as Mule iON, an enterprise-class integration platform designed to be a global, multi-tenant and elastic integration cloud. MuleSoft introduced the newly renamed CloudHub in July 2012 explaining that the company wanted a name better suited for the service. Chris Purpura wrote in the announcement that:
"We wanted a name that could better describe the value our cloud integration platform provides to a new and larger audience that might not know Mule. In the way that Facebook connects people around the globe, we want to connect applications and data to each other. Introducing CloudHub, the integration and connectivity platform that gets your data and applications interacting, sharing, and working together for the needs of businesses everywhere."
CloudHub makes it possible for repeatable integration applications to be built and offered without the need to create custom code. Applications can be connected quickly and easily whether they are on premises or in the cloud.
At the time of this writing, there are over 120 pre-built connectors available including Amazon S3, Facebook, Gmail, Hadoop HDFS, Magento, PayPal, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Twilio, and Twitter.
SnapLogic, a leading elastic integration solution provider, launched the newest version of the SnapLogic Elastic Integration solution in June 2013 which allows enterprises to easily connect any combination of enterprise data, on-premises applications and cloud applications. Founder and CEO of SnapLogic Gaurav Dhillon states for the press release that:
"Enterprises have data that sits both on-premises and in the cloud. Integrating data across these two planes in a way that is fast, flexible, and scalable — by intelligently shipping functions, or data of any volume — no matter where the data resides, is a key requirement for enterprise cloud adoption. With Elastic Integration, citizen developers can now self-serve integration, while IT can curate and control access points through private SnapStores. Integration has never been so accessible and powerful."
SnapLogic provides a variety of pre-built connections called Snaps that are available through public and private SnapStores. According to the press release, the SnapStore ecosystem now offers over 150 intelligent data connectors for applications including Amazon Redshift, Box, Constant Contact, Foursquare, Google Analytics, LinkedIn, NetSuite, Salesforce, Splunk, Tableau, and VerticalResponse.
Image Credit: Wappwolf Magazine
Wappwolf is a popular service that focuses on file processing, sharing and syncing allowing users to connect their web accounts (Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, etc) to Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.
Some of the actions available via the Wappwolf Automator include (but not limited to):
- Documents: Convert to PDF, Google Drive Upload, SlideShare Upload, E-Sign PDF.
- Pictures: Facebook Upload, Flickr Upload, Convert image format, Write text on image, photo effects.
- Any File: E-mail, Zip file, Upload to Dropbox, FTP-Upload, Upload to Evernote.
Zapier is an integration service that makes it possible for businesses to sync data, connect web applications and automate tasks without the need to write custom code or requiring extensive technical knowledge.
Zapier offers a variety of unique pre-built connections called "zaps" and features over 200 online service providers. The Zapier Zapbook includes web apps such as AWeber, Box, Buffer, Disqus, Dwolla, eBay, Evernote, Foursquare, Google AdWords, HootSuite, Parse, SendGrid, Trello, and YouTube.
Recently Zapier launched a new API Status Board which monitors the uptime and downtime for every API used by Zapier.
As more and more web, cloud and mobile applications are created, the need to bring data and applications together will increase greatly.
Although today's iPaaS vendors make it possible to connect many business, social and cloud applications together, iPaaS is not a silver bullet.
Many enterprise systems require custom integration and programming in order to connect to different applications and cloud platforms.
iPaaS is a very interesting and growing trend in the API space and it will be exciting to see what the future holds for iPaaS.
Disclaimer: MuleSoft is the parent company of ProgrammableWeb