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Integration is critical for all businesses, and selecting the right Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) is important for any organization looking to accelerate digital efforts. As you evaluate different iPaaS vendors, it’s important to understand the evolution of iPaaS and the differences between a modern and tactical solution. 

A brief history of iPaaS

The explosion of cloud applications radically simplified the deployment and consumption of business applications and development platforms. The benefits are huge: moving to the cloud can reduce IT overhead costs by as much as 30-40%. However, it also created a growing problem for organizations: data silos across systems and applications. 

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Developers attempted to solve this new issue with the old approach of writing custom code to connect information from one system to the next. This resulted in fragile, point-to-point architectures that increased technical debt. This gave way to the rise of iPaaS.

Broadly speaking, an iPaaS is a suite of cloud services that connect any combination of cloud and on-premise technologies, enabling businesses to connect data from separate applications, systems, and warehouses. iPaaS had such an impact on the industry that in 2014, the influential IT consulting firm Gartner created a new category for iPaaS in their Magic Quadrant analyst reports.  

The rising appeal of iPaaS and the emergence of cloud architectures resulted in a boom in solutions in the iPaaS market. Vendors attempted to cut corners by repackaging dated products, a phenomenon referred to as “cloud washing.” However, many of these iPaaS solutions perpetuated the problems with the custom code that it was intended to replace, leaving businesses with a point-to-point architecture that was creating technical debt, now at an even faster rate.

The unexpected consequences of tactical iPaaS

The value in a modern iPaaS lies in its ability to automate routine tasks for individual users, with little to no DevOps required. Yet many iPaaS vendors position themselves for the enterprise, when in actuality the value is mainly for individual users. It’s important to recognize that automating routine individual tasks with little or no DevOps isn’t the same as seamless integration and intelligent automation. 

The point-to-point integration trap

Many companies fall prey to iPaaS vendors who promise “instant integration to everything.”

These vendors often target small or medium-sized companies in the early stages of integration. They offer instant, simple connectivity at a relatively approachable cost. 

When your IT infrastructure consists of two to three systems, this type of solution is appealing.

But there’s a catch. While your organization is racing the clock to hit your revenue targets and growth goals required to keep investors happy, secure new funding, or deliver on customer commitments, these tactical iPaaS vendors have already bet against your success.

Because there is one topic these vendors will avoid discussing at all costs. Growth.

What happens when your company grows?

In a typical organization, as the business expands the complexity of its IT architecture also increases. Many companies start off by adopting modern cloud applications like Salesforce, Workday, or ServiceNow. These applications reduce the complexity of core business processes and enable employees to work more efficiently. Once organizations rely on two or more systems to keep the business running, it’s common for IT to look for a solution to synchronize data. 

At this stage, all IT needs is a cost-effective, easy way to push data from point A to point B. This approach is often called point-to-point integration

What is point-to-point integration?

Point-to-point integration is seen by many businesses as a way to quickly solve a data synchronization issue between two or more databases. Whether it’s an out-of-the-box plug-in or bespoke development in-house, at first glance, point-to-point integration seems to be an easy and cost-effective solution to push data from A to B. Unfortunately, countless organizations are learning the hard way that it is quite the contrary.

However, it can raise numerous issues further down the line. For example, how easy is it to change fixed integrations when a process changes or business grows? What happens when primary systems receive an update or if a company is looking to migrate to a new business system?

A quick system integration fix can turn into your worst nightmare. It can become completely unmanageable, incompatible with infrastructures, unstable, and extremely costly to fix.

The impact of point-to-point integration to your infrastructure

An exponential increase in complexity: It can be difficult to see when you’re only working with two or three architecture components, but the number of point-to-point connections needed to integrate a larger number of components increases exponentially as you add new systems. This is problematic for companies that rely on integrating with partners as a part of their business model.Single points of failure: No matter what integration architecture you use, avoiding single points of failure should always be a top priority. Your integration components, due to their central place in your network, have the potential to become one huge point of failure. The resulting architecture wreaks havoc on reliability.
No course of action for emergency response: Single-purpose, tightly coupled connectors undermine your efforts to shore up your architecture. A simple security patch could render your systems incompatible with your connector model, causing your entire network. Fixing this connector model requires a multi-step process of re-factoring, developing, testing, and deploying.Tactical tooling drives up costs: Tactical tooling drives up costs by requiring additional add-on purchases for capabilities that are critical to growth, such as API management. This also slows down time to market and takes a toll on long-term operations, risk, and security.

So, if it’s not just the ability to connect systems and applications, what actually makes up a strong iPaaS solution? To learn how to move beyond tactical, point-to-point integration, check out our latest whitepaper, Is iPaas enough?