Nowadays, many enterprises use cloud computing infrastructures and cloud services to support their operations. In several cases, they take advantage of multiple and heterogeneous services to support their operations in the scope of multi-cloud environments. This results in “siloed” business operations that are fragmented and characterized by poor automation and intelligence. For example, if you’re using business applications across multiple clouds, you’re at risk of encountering data discrepancies and errors. This can lead to unnecessary expenses for your organization. Therefore, organizations are seeking for effective ways to integrate different cloud services.
The Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) paradigm allows enterprises to integrate different cloud applications and develop workflows. Modern iPaaS solutions standardize how applications are integrated into an organization, making it easier to automate business processes and share data across applications. This is especially helpful for large enterprises with complex processes, since iPaaS streamlines business process management. iPaaS technology implements a single interface for simplifying cloud integration and bridging gaps across systems. This makes the use of business applications more seamless for the employees of an enterprise, making the software secure and reliable.
In the scope of the iPaaS paradigm services are accessed using open APIs offered by different cloud applications. This facilitates developers to produce integrated cloud applications regardless of the underlying heterogeneity of cloud infrastructures and services.
When implementing and deploying iPaaS cloud services enterprises are confronted with many different challenges.
The first challenge is the heterogeneity of data models and APIs. Even when using standards-based protocols, it is not always easy to ensure that data can be shared and used across applications. For example, the Open Data Protocol (OData) standard allows applications to access data from multiple sources via a single interface, but it can’t guarantee that all data are consistent. A further complication is that each application might have different requirements for accessing this data, which makes it difficult to create a single interface that meets all needs. To alleviate this challenge there is usually a need for designing and deploying some business interoperability solution. However, unifying the business semantics of different cloud applications is a challenge because there are many different types of applications with different business requirements. For example, some applications have an XML interface, while others use JSON. Likewise, some applications have SOAP-based APIs for security reasons, while others support OAuth2 for authentication. In addition, not all applications support all features. For example, some databases have no support for geospatial queries or complex data types.
Another challenge is addressing different cloud environments and cloud models as part of an integrated approach. For example, some companies may use public clouds (e.g., Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure), while others prefer private or hybrid clouds. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to speed, scalability, reliability, and cost. Hence, when it comes to creating an integrated environment some of these requirements might be compromised. This makes it very difficult to create a unified view of these disparate environments so that they appear as one consistent environment when viewed through an iPaaS platform.
One more challenge relates to offering smart security mechanisms across cloud applications. This means protecting both the application itself and its users by ensuring that only authorized requests can access data and services in the integrated iPaaS environment. However, different cloud applications and services support diverse and sometimes conflicting security profiles. It is usually challenging to compromise the diversity of the various security profiles in ways that ensure strong cybersecurity for the integrated iPaaS infrastructure.
Most importantly, when implementing an iPaaS solution, enterprises must align business issues with technical challenges. Integration is motivated by the need to improve efficiency and business results. Therefore, the technical solutions should aim at solving business problems rather than keeping up with technology trends.
Here are some best practices that can help enterprises start their iPaaS journey on the right foot:
iPaaS is a relatively new concept, but it has already begun to transform the way that developers work. In the coming years the iPaaS market will continue to grow as more developers look for the flexibility of an integrated platform that allows them to work with multiple cloud platforms without having to learn new languages or tools each time. That’s the reason why enterprises must take a closer look on iPaaS platforms and related service offerings.
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