Hybrid applications and services: how to connect & automate with the best of iPaaS

8 October 2019 | 3782 Shares

Enterprises use dozens, if not hundreds of applications, services, and systems to run the business. There was a time when large ERP vendors claimed that their products could be used across every business function, and the days of point products were numbered. However, despite the marketing bluster, this was never the case, although, in many companies, large ERPs do form the backbone of the enterprise stack — but are just part of the overall computing picture.

Companies are finding that the best way to break down the discrete data silos that each app or service commands is to use integration solutions that can not only interface between each app, but also automate data transits (and sometimes transformations) between them. In hybrid topologies, iPaaS is seen to be the ideal solution: integration platform as a service. That’s because from the cloud, an iPaaS framework can homogenize public & private cloud data silos, as well as on-premise, local data center-hosted instances, and even apps running remotely in edge installations.

The logic is that to run efficiently, systems must integrate with one another. If they don’t, the business must start to employ expensive staff to manually move data from silo to silo, from database A to finance system B, and so on, sometimes having to negotiate complexities involving authentication, secure tunnels and access privileges.

Integrating applications and services, therefore, and adding a healthy dash of automation while we’re at it, has become a fantastic way that IT functions can increase the enterprise’s efficiency. So, if integration is the best way forward, how to approach the task? What’s quickly become apparent is that hand-coded, point-to-point interfaces are expensive and time-consuming, subject to breakage, and aren’t particularly scalable — or certainly, not at the speeds required by business units, overall.

Step forward, therefore, a new generation of integration service providers that offer the types of pre-built integrations, API-friendly connectors and even templated automation routines: these promise to do all the heavy lifting for you, and are malleable enough to simply (for instance) add an extra field or three for a database query without needing a scrum of developers to pick their way through the possible consequences. Cloud providers of iPaaS make it their mission to ensure that the individual applications’ API access gateways are monitored, both for availability, but also in case an individual service gets altered by the vendor — typically when a version upgrade “breaks” the API.

Furthermore, the latest integration platforms add a significant level of abstraction to the end-user to make each app’s offerings better presented. Therefore, consumerized technology practices like drag-and-drop and attractive GUIs can represent what are highly complex data interchanges. That means that, within reason, the “citizen developers” (clearly capable of determining best what solutions they need) can create, edit and manage their own workflows, suitably abstracted API connectors, and automation routines.

And while the different business functions may not achieve full autonomy with regards to their own IT solutions, there will be a significant amount of daily labor lifted from the shoulders of developers and the in-house IT skill pool. That’s great news for the business in terms of lowered costs, of course, but it also means that skilled technology professionals get to be engaged in more strategically oriented activities, rather than having to shore up existing provisions daily.

Pre-built connectors

At a data level, many different business verticals are similar. Not only are there common platforms (SAP, Salesforce, PostgreSQL, Azure, and so on), but every company from startup to multinational has a finance function, HR, sales, lists of contacts and similar information types. Armed with several hundred pre-built integrations and a similar number of oft-seen automation routines, it’s (hopefully) a relatively easy process to create the kind of meshing between discrete apps that point-to-point developers might take years over.

Furthermore, as your enterprise deploys new apps and services, your iPaaS provider will in all likelihood have connectors ready to go. Just plug in the new instance, app, or service and it becomes a seamless part of the network.

At TechHQ we believe that one of the following iPaaS providers has a solution your business will find effective. Your choice will depend on issues like your end-user demographics and ability, business size, available budget, and potential savings and efficiencies that you hope to accrue.

FLOWGEAR

Flowgear, founded in 2010, is rapidly becoming the iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) vendor of choice for smaller enterprises and medium size companies. Flowgear’s rich integration feature set coupled with its recent venture into RPA (Robotic Process Automation), enables customers for the first time to combine automation of tedious tasks with robust API-based integration, all at a compelling price point.

With over 200+ prebuilt connectors, Flowgear’s no code platform enables organizations of all sizes to build powerful Application, Data and API integrations in minutes not months, all from a single interface.

Integrations and workflows are built using a drag-and-drop visual designer that is easy to understand, test and roll out into production. The service is cloud-based and operates agnostically across on-premise systems and cloud services.

Flowgear delivers the agility organizations need to deal with the rapid pace of change associated with cloud-based applications by creating reusable workflows, integrating SaaS applications and automating time-consuming, repetitive processes.

While competitors price their offerings based on CPU cores, connectors or transaction volumes, Flowgear’s transparent pricing model is based on Active Workflows (measured as the number of integrations/workflows that are running concurrently at any one time). With no additional hidden costs, plans start at US$745 per month for 10 active workflows. There are no limits on the number or type of connectors used, tasks, throughput or workflows created.

Flowgear also offers a free proof of concept when you register for a free trial: tell the company how you might like to use the platform, and Flowgear will build a working, practical demonstration so you see “real-life” results. Read more on about the company here on TechHQ.

MULESOFT

The Anypoint Platform has been the de facto standard for API integration for several years and has the trophy cabinet from the likes of Gartner to prove it. With offices all over the world, and the type of ubiquity companies like Salesforce (who acquired Mulesoft in 2018) and Cisco have, many turn first to the San Francisco-headquartered Mulesoft.

The solution’s structure follows (roughly) the chronology of implementation in that it contains modules or areas for integration design, implementation and management, and automation. With the Mule runtime engine driving automation, companies can begin to experience the type of labor-saving that really begins to drive down a significant chunk of costs.

Whether your processes are triggered (if X then Y), scheduled or continuous, the Mulesoft stack is the single place to see real-time processes as they fire and work.

There’s an integration exchange too, so you can re-use or copy integrations, API access methods, and even event-driven contingencies, all from a central repository of knowledge. In this way, the “standard” business apps can be better organized, and workflows significantly streamlined.

To learn more about the enterprise-class Mulesoft, click here.

JITTERBIT

Like Mulesoft, Jitterbit has invested in the Gartner value proposition, featuring in the company’s Magic Quadrant for enterprise IPaaS (integration platform as a service) and attaining the highest score in the same company’s “B2B integration use case critical capabilities report.”

Gartner accolades aside, Jitterbit is seen in the industry as occupying the middle ground in terms of price between the two providers listed above. Like those two, the company offers a tiered approach to the use of its platform, with a basic package for openers, up to full enterprise deployments.

Jitterbit is particularly active in healthcare, although that is a historical trend in terms of its customer types, rather than a slant or emphasis the company places on that vertical — its solution is suitable for all industries and businesses that use software. So pretty much every organization outside the most traditional of artisans.

Unlike the two platforms featured above, Jitterbit can be hosted on-premise, in the cloud, or as a hybrid deployment, with spread resources. Local requirements are fairly modest — starting from a single server instance — and in the cloud, Jitterbit runs on clusters, thus providing that critical five-nines level of uptime via failover contingencies and clever load distribution under the hood.

Establishing connections between apps and services is an entirely graphical process, and the company touts its ease of setup, with intelligent field mapping from one app to another, for instance, as one of the ways initial connection-making is made easy.

To learn all about Jitterbit, click here for more information.

*Some of the companies featured are commercial partners of TechHQ