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iPaaS: Integration for the Cloud

Integration platform as a service represents the next generation of application integration

No trend in the world of IT has had more impact on businesses than the move to cloud computing. From enterprise applications like Salesforce, to infrastructure platforms like Amazon EC2, to social media services like Facebook and Twitter, the cloud is changing the IT landscape. However, as companies move their applications en masse to the cloud, they are hitting a major roadblock for success — namely, integration. While these same organizations have spent the last 15 years integrating their enterprise applications to break down silos of information, they are now seeing a renewed problem of "cloud silos” and facing the dark side of SaaS integration. With little to no barrier of entry in adopting SaaS, companies are deploying numerous SaaS applications without IT involvement, resulting in hundreds of applications and services in the ecosystem, all siloed off and unable to communicate seamlessly with one another.

Integration across the enterprise is becoming a huge challenge for not only business end users but also for providers of SaaS and cloud services. This new set of integration problems requires a new platform for solving them. A new category of cloud integration solutions is emerging called integration platform as a service (iPaaS). For more information about this category, take a look at Gartner's report on enterprise integration.

The emerging cloud architecture

Throughout the history of IT, new technologies have necessitated new software architectures. Almost like clockwork, every decade brings a new trend that has ushered in a new architecture for the enterprise: online transaction processing in the 1970s, client/server models in the 1980s, three-tier component computing in the 1990s, and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in the 2000s. As a result, the structure of business systems is again undergoing a shift.

The emerging IT software stack has three layers, each delivered on-demand as a cloud service:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Application software. This provides the user-facing applications that enable business.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): A virtualized environment on which systems can be deployed. This provides the underlying computing resources for the deployment of enterprise systems.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Application infrastructure, both for the development of single applications and integration between multiple applications. The middleware that enables the development of advanced applications.

The Emergence of SaaS

Of these three layers of the stack, the first to emerge was software as a service. In the early part of the 2000s the first SaaS applications emerged. Salesforce was perhaps the most successful of the early SaaS provider. The CRM market moved from a large and complex on-premises deployment to a cloud-based service at an unexpectedly rapid pace. By the end of the decade, emerging SaaS offerings existed for almost every type of application with new competitors emerging every day.

The Emergence of IaaS

Infrastructure as a service emerged next - with services like Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and others. The rise of new technologies such as virtualization allowed shared data centers to achieve higher rates of resource utilization while offering dynamic expandability capacity and an avoidance of upfront capital outlays. In recent years the push towards infrastructure as a service has accelerated and a series of new competitors have emerged over the past few years.

As IaaS and SaaS emerged and rapidly became a mainstay of many corporate IT environments, the only missing piece of the software stack was the platform layer. The need to address this essential middle layer is central to the next step in the evolution of cloud services.

The Emergence of PaaS

Platform as a service is a category of cloud computing that offers a framework and an environment to allow developers to build applications and services atop it. Within the category of platform as a service there are several components. One surrounds application platform as a service (aPaaS). These offerings range from container services to development tools to programming models and many more. In recent years these elements of application platform as a service have slowly begun appearing in the market. Offerings such as, Google App Engine, Heroku, Cloud Foundry, Microsoft Azure, and Engine Yard have begun to get some early adoption. aPaaS forms the foundation upon which many of today’s most popular SaaS applications have been built.

The piece of the puzzle that remains missing is a way to integrate across applications. The emergence of a series of application platform elements without integration solutions is the genesis of the “cloud silos” problem. As more applications move to this new architecture, there is a growing need to seamlessly connect, integrate and orchestrate between these disparate components. Developers require adapters for various applications, orchestration capabilities, flow management, and much more. A cloud Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) fulfills this vital need.

iPaaS: The next generation of integration software

iPaaS is now emerging as the next generation integration platforms for integrating cloud applications with one another and with on-premises and legacy applications. Simply put, an iPaaS is a cloud integration platform as a service, enabling connectivity to SaaS and cloud services and providing a secure method of accessing on-premises applications behind a firewall. An iPaaS can solve the problem of cloud silos by providing businesses a way to integrate cloud-based services with each other as well as with on-premises enterprise applications in a hybrid integration model.

There are many essential elements of an iPaaS solution. First and foremost it must have a robust set of connectors for SaaS and cloud services, with an ability to quickly add more as new services emerge in the fast-changing environment of cloud technologies. It should also recognize that most organizations will have a mix of on-premises and cloud-based assets, and provide a secure method of integrating with existing on-premises applications and infrastructure, including legacy systems (e.g., CICS, AS400). The ability to connect legacy systems and cloud applications to support on-premises and cloud integration in a hybrid architecture is vital to businesses, and key in effective iPaaS solutions. In contrast with inflexible "black box" SaaS integration tools on the market, an iPaaS should be open enough that integration solutions can be built and customized to address the nuances of typical SaaS integration scenarios. Developers must also be able to use familiar tools and processes to build and configure integration-style applications, without changing the way they work.

In addition to meeting developer needs, there are essential “nuts and bolts” requirements for an iPaaS. Such solutions must be based on a robust core integration engine and be highly available, reliable, and secure. There must be powerful management tools to understand the performance of applications, monitor them and provide auditing and alerts. It must allow for seamless and transparent ramp-up of more capacity as the demand grows. Finally, an integration platform must be future-proof and API ready, so as to easily adapt to the changing ecosystem and grow with changing business needs.

iPaaS is emerging as the next-generation integration technology, gradually replacing traditional forms of integration middleware. iPaaS will provide the last essential component to realizing the benefits of a cloud architecture.

Even as this new architecture takes shape, however, the transition will not be immediate. Businesses have generations of existing systems and it is crucial that they integrate with these new services. These legacy applications must be accounted for in any new architecture and a seamless transition is required. According to Gartner, “Users should plan for a gradual shift from on-premises IT architectures toward a hybrid model in which these architectures coexist and interoperate with public cloud-based architectures.” While the evolution will not immediate, businesses need to begin the transition process today.

CloudHub: the world’s first global iPaaS

CloudHub is the first iPaaS offering to meet all of the requirements outlined above. It is a fully cloud-based solution, enabling customers to take advantage of the economics and elasticity of the cloud for their integration infrastructure. As the iPaaS component of MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform™, the only complete platform for SOASaaS integration, and APIs, CloudHub and additional integration solutions such as Mule as an ESBAnypoint Studio, and API Manager provide a true unified connectivity platform for developers to build packaged integration applications.

Integration for all

For systems integrators, CloudHub can eliminate the most time-consuming and repetitive part of client implementations: integration with other systems. With CloudHub, integrators create competitive differentiation through faster implementation times and more robust cloud integration solutions. The cloud integration platform helps system integrators to deliver business value to clients, rather than wasting time writing custom code.

Anypoint Platform represents a major improvement over custom point-to-point integration, as the platform offers tested, reliable, and supported connectors and integration templates. Organizations that use MuleSoft’s integration solutions avoid the maintenance costs and headaches associated with “spaghetti architecture.” They gain visibility and control into the integration performance and integration itself can easily scale and change with business demand.

With Anypoint Platform, developers can be up and running in hours, while ensuring that they have the scalability, flexibility, and manageability that thousands of leading enterprises have come to expect from MuleSoft. With a library of out-of-the-box Anypoint Connectors and Anypoint Templates to integrate with popular SaaS applications, systems, and services, getting started with integration has never been easier. Anypoint Platform provides a secure gateway to enterprise, allowing application teams to integrate and orchestrate their enterprise applications along with their cloud-based services. The platform is architected with ultimate high availability and reliability in mind, and gives IT staff full manageability and visibility into flows, messages and other services. Moreover, end-users get the full benefits of the cloud, including multi-tenant isolation for data security and integrity, elasticity to scale with demand, the convenience of self-service sign-up and provisioning, and a cost-effective pay-as-you-grow model.

Take a look at Gartner's Magic Quadrant report on iPaaS and learn why MuleSoft was designated a Leader in this category. Discover Anypoint Platform today and learn how you can connect what you want, when you want, whether it’s on-premises or in the cloud. Sign up for CloudHub »