The Future of Integration - Challenges, considerations, and trends

- Umesh Bhorale

Today, as business data increasingly proliferates a multitude of systems, app-integration teams are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace. While a platform-based approach takes the pain out of integrating and scaling applications, the volume, velocity, and veracity of data are adding to integration complexities.

What’s changed in iPaaS implementation?

The origins of integration platform-as-a-service can be traced to the late 2000s. iPaaS was initially a solution to streamline basic data and application integration for cloud computing. However, as organizations began to ramp up cloud adoption, iPaaS evolved to include features like API management, real-time data integration, data mapping, workflow automation, and more. These functionalities were crucial in powering existing iPaaS solutions to handle complex integration scenarios and hybrid integration requirements.

As businesses seek to rapidly integrate emerging technologies and data streams with a growing volume of applications and processes, iPaaS is going through a similar transition to address issues of speed and scalability. IoT devices, edge computing, and embedded devices are generating large volumes of data. The broader challenge now is to address concerns with data quality, latency, security, and rising costs.

While iPaaS implementation addresses these challenges at an enterprise level, achieving seamless integration across hybrid environments has become increasingly complex and resource-intensive over the years. To deliver on the promise of an agile and efficient integration architecture, iPaaS vendors now leverage emerging technologies like business process automation (BPA), AI/ML, and data mapping to provide a more scalable and modular solution for businesses.

Key challenges with iPaaS implementation

According to a study commissioned by Forrester Consulting, two out of three respondents that didn’t have an iPaaS solution reported a lack of visibility and data integrity to make real-time decisions. While the market for iPaaS implementation is still stronger than ever, vendors must address immediate challenges concerning scalability and profitability. Let's look at some of the key considerations for businesses and vendors:

1. Scaling the iPaaS architecture at the speed of cloud

As cloud services gain traction, cloud migration continues to be a top priority for businesses across industry verticals. With more and more businesses opting for SaaS (Software as a Service), there are numerous integration opportunities on the table. These could range from application integrations, microservices integrations, and multi-cloud integrations across multiple environments. As the complexity and volume of integrations increase, iPaaS providers should ensure that the existing workload can accommodate new processes with minimum latency, downtime, and setbacks.

Another important aspect is that with every new integration, businesses are adding multiple data streams simultaneously. At a point, it becomes severely challenging to maintain data quality, data integrity, and data accuracy to aid business reporting and analytics.

2. Balancing strain with profitability for the iPaaS providers

For an iPaaS provider, the challenge goes beyond merely facilitating integration. Providers bear the responsibility of ensuring enterprise-grade scalability, a pressing concern for large businesses dealing with massive data volumes and spikes in transaction loads. With growing emphasis on digital and hybrid business models, scalability can't be a mere afterthought—it's a necessity for continuity and operational excellence.

Additionally, given the mission-critical nature of integrations, ensuring high availability becomes a top priority. Downtime, even for a few minutes, can translate to significant business losses, not to mention the reputational damage it incurs. Hence, the onus is on the iPaaS provider to ensure a resilient infrastructure.

Shared below is a perspective for providers to achieve balance:

  • Resource allocation : Over provisioning leads to excessive costs and under provisioning hampers performance - investments in infrastructure should be mindful and strategic. Consider a multi-cloud strategy based on the customer fit and leverage cloud cost management tools to predict and communicate spend.
  • Flexible pricing models : Innovative pricing models that align well with customer needs. Example - consider a tiered pricing proposition based on volume of integrations, data, or API calls. Ensure transparency and identify opportunities for customers to reduce cost through efficiency.
  • Automation : Optimize resource usage through automation techniques such as intelligent load balancing, proactive monitoring, and auto-scaling. Advise customers to consistently clean and optimize their data, preparing it for the integration pipeline.
  • Customer success : Effectively address cost-related queries of customers, create a timely customer feedback loop to drive platform improvements and ensure that they get maximum value from their iPaaS platform. Strong support and customer success teams can drive long-standing relationships.

3. Configuring the security of an ever-increasing ecosystem

The scope of integration platform-as-a-service extends across multiple environments and application architectures. APIs are key to managing interactions across these disparate environments, and as such, require a comprehensive understanding of security configuration to maintain industry standards and compliance requirements. In the rush to integrate a dozen applications and unlock new dashboards and machine learning models, organizations often overlook an important detail - API management.

Monetizing APIs and exposing them for third-party use can contribute significantly to your organization’s revenue. API management and security become more complex as business ecosystems grow at pace. Without properly configured access controls, authentication standards (OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect, and JSON web tokens), testing, and monitoring - it’s only a matter of time until something breaks.

Configuring security for an evolving iPaaS ecosystem is a critical task. Api security, data encryption, risk assessments, compliance audits, disaster recovery and continuity are essential aspects to consider.

4. Accommodating citizen integration requirements within the iPaaS architecture

IPaaS and specialized connectors have gradually lowered technical process complexities, making integration more accessible with a low to no-code approach. With integration and automation opportunities growing by the day, ‘citizen integrators’ take on the role of addressing burgeoning integration requirements across industry verticals. While citizen integration allows businesses to rapidly deploy integrations with the help of domain experts, lack of governance and oversight has thrown a spanner in the works for iPaaS vendors.

While these integrators are generally associated with a data or application development background, they often lack a comprehensive understanding of the iPaaS architecture. As a result, most citizen integrations aren’t reusable, which means they aren’t using common data models or standardized integration patterns. This further increases the workload for iPaaS vendors as they now must incorporate new APIs, configurations, and connectors within the governance and monitoring framework. Enhanced training from iPaaS vendors can empower citizen integrators to build reusable and standardized integrations, promoting a culture of efficiency and collaboration within the iPaaS ecosystem.

The future of integration with iPaaS

iPaaS solutions are expected to play a pivotal role in addressing the demand for seamless connectivity across applications, data, and associated services. IPaaS providers are extending their value beyond integration strategy and focusing on business architecture as a primary impact area.

The future of iPaaS is largely based on the expansion of its ecosystem. As cyber threats get more sophisticated, data regulations become more stringent; security and governance will continue to be key focus areas concerning iPaaS advancements. Integration platforms will likely merge to include a wide array of third-party services and emerging technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) devices, edge computing, and AI/ML-powered analytics. The extended compatibility and innovation will aid organizations to leverage fuller potential of their data and applications, enable data-driven decision-making and automation at unprecedented levels.

1. Agility – Driven innovation

The focus on agility is driving modular and scalable application architectures. Microservices-based architecture makes integrations more manageable; when combined with event-driven capabilities and deployment automation, it can simplify operational workloads for the iPaaS solution.

Robotic process automation (RPA) and iPaaS are both technologies that enable businesses to automate and streamline processes. Most iPaaS solutions are now automating repetitive tasks needed to link different systems or workflows, based on set rules. This means that the platform can manage routine tasks on its own, making the process of integrating various systems intelligent, seamless, and less hands-on.

As businesses continue to integrate applications and services outside standardized patterns, iPaaS vendors are importing RPA functionality to provide a layer of automation on top of existing integrations. This can help automate tasks like data entry, testing, validation, data cleansing and enrichment.

2. Use of AI and ML in the integration space

With AI/ML integrations, businesses can analyze historical integration patterns to provide recommendations based on select datasets. These datapoints from integration and customer behaviour can further empower developers by performing predictive maintenance, providing smart connections for integration flows, data mapping, and analyzing development performance over time.

With recommendation engines continuously optimizing the flow of data, you get more visibility into the full development lifecycle across design, testing, and deployment phases to the CI/CD pipeline. AIOps can automatically predict runtime failures, allowing businesses to cut resource costs and act on data faster.

Implementation of data fabric

At its core, data fabric is an integrated and consistent data architecture framework. It aims to provide seamless data access, integration, and processing across various environments – be it on-premises, cloud, or hybrid setups. It's essentially a unified data environment that provides connectivity, orchestration, and fluidity of data.

Data fabric aligns perfectly with the requirements of integration service providers; supports real-time data processing for faster data synchronization across platforms, handles various data patterns, and manages increased workloads at economies of scale. Data Fabric applies a unified view of data across discrete sources. This synergy between data fabric as a service (DFaaS) and iPaaS can potentially make the integration space more cost-effective and intelligent.

Ultimately, it all comes down to enabling a self-serve model for your customers. In a McKinsey survey, responding CIOs reported that 10-20% of the technology budget for new technologies was spent on resolving issues arising from technical debt. With more businesses looking to cut down on technical debt, iPaaS must evolve from a centralized, integration-specific standpoint to a more holistic approach for digital transformation.

iPaaS for business excellence

Integration is a complex and expensive process, and having an iPaaS implementation strategy has helped organizations address pain points to ensure effective implementations.

As the data landscape grows and diversifies, iPaaS will pivot towards a more user-friendly, intelligent, secure, and resilient direction. The convergence of multiple technologies and the drive for digital transformation will continue to propel iPaaS as an indispensable tool for businesses.

When it comes to structuring integration flows, it’s extremely important to know when to use iPaaS and how to implement it for maximum ROI. At Torry Harris, we are experts at driving business excellence with rock-solid integration flows and robust iPaaS implementations.

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About the author

Umesh Bhorale

Content Strategist

Torry Harris Integration Solutions