Adequate data management is key to the optimal functioning of an enterprise – more so, considering vast quantities of data continue to be added simultaneously across various portals on top of the pre-existing data.
In order to fare better in a highly competitive market, customer satisfaction needs to be highly prioritized – demanding quick retrieval of data which is accurate and relevant. This can be quite challenging considering the various methods of data integration that have been used over time across different departments leading to a non-homogeneous data structure, and limiting accessibility. This is where more sophisticated cloud-based data integration services such as iPaaS deliver.
iPaaS stands for Integration Platform as a Service. Basically, it is a service that helps integrate software applications used across various units of an enterprise in addition to specific business management services. This allows for more efficient collection and retrieval of data.
Before we dive deep into the applications of iPaaS, it is important to differentiate it from two similar terms:
- PaaS or Platform as a service. Unlike iPaaS which can help integrate and manage data across various rungs of an organization utilizing different platforms, PaaS is a cloud-based data governance tool having similar benefits as IPaaS but limited to a single platform.
- SaaS or Software as a service. It is a cloud based platform hosting applications for data management. This can be a cheaper and more efficient substitute than building and maintaining a local server. SaaS is one of the services offered by a vendor under the IPaaS umbrella.
In a large organization, there are specific tasks for IT teams across different departments. To maximize productivity and convenience, each department resorts to deploying specific applications best suited for their tasks. This is to be expected and by no means, is an incorrect approach.
A vast amount of information is fed at each terminal department which then needs to be uploaded to the central database where it is sorted and shared across the entire infrastructure to facilitate the smooth operation of critical business processes. This process is termed as integration.
However, of late, the number of specialized business software deployed across IT wings have skyrocketed. This becomes an issue when each software requires and generates a unique set of data that may not be compatible across departments which renders automatic integration impossible. To compensate, there is an increased reliance on manual data entry which is slow, inefficient, and has a higher chance of introducing errors into the data pool.
Typically, iPaaS vendors offer tools for data integration and host data management applications on their servers. Vendors may also offer complete business data management services where the entire process of integration can be directly handled by the vendor instead of an IT department responsible for the same.
In addition, they also offer the provision for developers to create new applications from scratch which can be tested on the platform itself prior to deployment. This is made possible through a set of templates pre-approved for business conduction.
Certain vendors may also offer specialized kits to aid the integration of data from legacy sources and the addition of utilities such as integration with company socials and extended customer support.
The basic services included in an iPaaS subscription include:
- Secure handling of sensitive data: Access to data is kept limited to personnel with special access – this is referred to as Data Governance. Data is held securely till it has been delivered or reached its shared destination.
- Developer tools: A wide array of application templates and tools are made accessible to developers to develop and test their own use-specific integration software.
- Error correction: Constant monitoring and identification of errors experienced during data transfer
- API management: APIs are popular integration tools limited in their ability to function beyond the scope of applications using a different API. IPaaS utilizes API methodology to successfully help integrate data from applications dependent on a specific API for data transfer. If required, IPaaS can also act as end point connectors for specific applications and initiate data integration without the need to code using an API.
To summarise, IPaaS provides an environment for the creation and management of data integration and sharing of relevant data across different applications and data sources.
- Application and data integration – Simultaneous integration via data flow between disparate applications located in the cloud or in a local data centre. All data integration is made after real-time validation. iPaaS also allows for integration between multiple cloud databases and Business to Business integration with or without API involvement.
- Integration of Big Data – Big data is more difficult to manage considering its sheer size which requires large storage databases such as data lakes and the need to process it in a limited period of time.
iPaaS mediated integration and data management is projected to grow more popular with time as both large and small-scale enterprises are heavily dependent on cloud-based data storage and integration services – with iPaaS continuing to be in the thick of it providing excellent compatibility and ease of integration across multiple platforms while overlapping heavily with traditional API based management while being functionally similar yet superior to SaaS and PaaS.