What’s iPaaS? Digital Connections Made Easy, That’s What

26 September 2018 | 3270 Shares

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There’s an argument in business technology circles that so-called “shadow IT” these days is, in fact, “IT.” This statement requires a few words of explanation:

Since the price of computing has dropped in diametric relationship to its ubiquity (stuff has gotten cheaper and therefore more common), just about everyone has the basic knowledge required to spin up an application or service, without necessarily getting (or indeed, needing) the approval of the “traditional” IT department.

IT departments are rarely the overriding arbiters of what happens on the network in today’s enterprise. Within sensible limits, staff can use what they need, and what the budgets allow, to get their jobs done. Today each department, division and ad hoc working group can use XaaS solutions more or less at will to power and support its activities.

In addition to cloud-based pay-as-you-go services, many local installations remain – not as “legacy” applications in many cases, but often as mission-critical pieces of software.

In some cases, security concerns or governance requirements mean that apps are deployed on bare-metal, in the private data center or a variation thereon; at least installed behind the corporate firewall.

The business-led approach to IT deployments has had its effects on an IT department’s practices and structure too, not just on its role in an organization.

(Even perceptions of the IT function inside an enterprise have altered, due in decent part to technology’s ubiquity in every space, every household, every interaction. Geeks are “cool”!)

In larger enterprises, there may be thousands of application and service deployments, from applications on individual machines, through the data center, to private cloud installations and also to the plentiful public cloud app uses.

The result? A more technologically astute workforce and a more efficient digitized workplace, but many disconnected data silos.

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Digital transformation cannot be achieved in its fullest sense with this background. There are apps like the larger ERPs (SAP, Salesforce, NetSuite and so on) which can handle just about every business function, but they’re always not entirely suited to fit and function everywhere in even a medium-sized organization.

There’ll always be different functions, services, and applications involved in the daily workings of the enterprise, and so a massive component in any transformation project will be system interconnectivity.

For the workers “at the coalface,” software & systems which aren’t connected mean a whole lot of copy and pasting, double or triple entry, chasing up of latest versions and endless quests for the canonical — the single point of truth.

For managers right up to C-level personnel, the lack of connectivity spells inefficiency, wasted resources (especially staff hours), lack of mobility, higher costs and a definite dulling of the company’s competitive edge.

Connections between different systems, applications, services and silos used to take teams of skilled programmers to create.

Working with technologies as different in scope as .CSVs, XML, JSON, SOAP, (and latterly) RDF, interconnections between APIs and data pools were created.

However, these costly creations are fragile beasts, prone to break after an upgrade to any system, and cumbersome to reconfigure “on the fly” – according to the business’s new and ever-changing requirements, for example.

Thankfully, there are solutions out there which create just the sort of agile, malleable and easily-configurable connections which the modern enterprise needs to get the competitive edge back.

Here at Tech HQ, we’ve been considering some of the new breed of iPaaS solutions — integration platform as a service.

These products are typically cloud-based and offer ways to ensure that data connections can be set up without recourse to expensive teams of specialists, and then allow data to be managed and monitored right across the myriad of systems that the organization uses.

As well as zero-programming (or low-code) interfaces, the products featured below offer so-called citizen developers ways of achieving proper data management.

And in today’s businesses, that means being able to change configurations at will, add new applications into the mix and retire older services – all at the business’s strategic behest, not the IT department’s.

By deploying one of the solutions featured below, your organization can work more quickly and more efficiently, integrate with ease, and finally make digital transformation a process that allows the whole enterprise to work to shared goals rather than fragment into data silos and discrete functions.

DELL BOOMI

Even before its qualities caught the eye of the giant that is Dell (the company was acquired in 2010), Boomi was a great place to work. The Pennsylvania-headquartered Boomi was rated a unique place to work by Inc. Magazine , and cited as one of the best workplaces in the US.

Boomi’s integration products are oriented towards a combination of power and ease of use, but also deploy some of that “community spirit” that clearly permeates the company.

Its customers can draw on catalogs of (for instance) data connections numbering in the millions between literally thousands of common systems, which have already been successfully used by Boomi’s other satisfied clients.

This citizen-developer approach means there’s no traditional middleware, no specific API knowledge required, and the solutions work across in-house, hybrid and cloud-based apps of just about every flavor.

The deployment of integrated, two-way flows between even the more isolated applications is made simple, and quick to integrate, test and deploy.

Dell Boomi also offers more extensive integration solutions, creating API opportunities for enterprises’ outside partners, creating trading partner networks, and even creating fully-automated customer journeys right across different services and apps.

To read more about Boomi’s products, click here

MULESOFT

MuleSoft was created in 2003 with the company’s original purpose being along the lines of “donkey-work” removal. Since those beginnings, the company has evolved from a simple automation-based solution provider into an offering which interconnects multiple apps and service multi-directionally.

The numbers of apps running in any enterprise will undoubtedly number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and this is particularly true as companies merge and are taken over and systems need rapid integration.

MuleSoft combines the various topological variations to make a unified whole: from social channels, databases, FTP & file stores, web apps (such as SaaS), IoT software, to business partners’ remote systems.

The company’s software copes with the multitudinous data formats, communications & network protocols, API types and authentication methods, abstracting the internal machinations.

Once data is aggregated “behind the scenes,” its presentation can also be changed in the software’s abstraction layer so that it can be presented, managed and interacted with according to business requirements.

MuleSoft presents itself as the provider of Business-as-a-Service, a claim that has clearly impressed business luminaries such as Airbnb, Splunk, and Twitter, amongst others.

Managing APIs and data exchange is precisely the way forward for many medium to large businesses today, and many have chosen the abstraction possibilities offered by the San Francisco-headquartered MuleSoft.

ZAPIER

Zapier’s offerings could easily be dismissed as an IFTTT variant (if-this-then-that) on steroids: its easy on-boarding by tech beginners, however, belies the platform’s power.

Data interchanges are known as “Zaps,” comprising a trigger, followed by an action: if a new email arrives in a Gmail account, then send an SMS, for example. This is known as a “Task.” To this extent, Zapier, therefore, represents an IFTTT deployment, albeit with 1000+ app instances in common and easy use models.

Paid plans (starting at $20 per user, per month) allow integration to so-called “premium” apps, like Salesforce and most SQL variations, for example. Paid plans also enable multi-step Zaps, thus, to continue the metaphor, if this then that and that and that and that.

The higher end of the paid plans also gives users a replay function, so if a task fails (caused when an API is momentarily down, for example), then it will re-run until it succeeds.

Zapier’s approach is therefore very much citizen-led, and we envisage individual users starting to automate their everyday tasks, and then becoming advocates for the platform, cross-selling plans to their colleagues, teams, departments and even entire companies!

In that scenario, there’s Zapier for Teams, which allows team members to share and collaborate on Zaps, but without having to pool individuals’ logins to the various services – there’s a free trial available to get you started.

*Some of these companies are commercial partners of TechHQ


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