Not so long ago, the concept of cloud computing was foreign and confusing to even the computer literate. The notion that computing power and data storage could be separated from an individual user’s physical machine was a significant paradigm shift that opened intriguing possibilities for economies of scale and new ways of doing business and managing IT infrastructure needs.
What Is Cloud Computing?
First, let’s be clear on what we mean by cloud computing. Microsoft Azure, a leading cloud service provider, explains the concept as follows: “Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.”
So, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet. The underlying hardware could be miles and miles away from where the end user is accessing cloud services, which may be housed on a single server or spread among multiple servers for redundancy and efficiency. For example, someone with a cloud storage account can access and modify files from virtually anywhere in the world, regardless of where their physical computer is located.
Cloud-based computing is often referred to as software-as-a-service, or “SaaS.” The idea is that, instead of the earlier paradigm in which physical software was sold to end-users who installed it on local machines that they themselves needed to maintain and operate, SaaS providers handle that maintenance and operation on their end as a service to their end users, for a fee of course.
What is Cloud Integration?
Cloud systems inherently involve a great deal of integration between and within data centers. For example, many top cloud service providers tout the distributed nature of their data centers. If a data center in Seattle, Washington goes offline, a well-prepared cloud provider can continue to provide services from a back-up or active-active data center in another geographic location. And obviously the cloud platform needs to have some level of integration with an end-user’s physical device, whether that’s a laptop, smartphone, or streaming device.
But what about integration between cloud platforms? Many organizations rely heavily on a variety of software applications to run their businesses. Everything from building access and payroll to email and billing are often operated on cloud-based applications. Businesses might utilize hundreds or even thousands of discrete cloud-based applications. While these individual applications may rely on integration with different servers and end user access points, that integration is internal to that application. Cloud integration involves the integration of multiple cloud-based applications into a single ecosystem in support of the business. Cloud integration can also involve the integration of on-premises solutions (i.e., those operated on local computers instead of in the cloud) with cloud-based applications.
What is Cloud iPaaS?
Software requires managing both the application and the infrastructure required to allow end users to access the application. In a SaaS environment, the infrastructure to host and operate an application is a service provided by the SaaS provider.
The SaaS relationship between provider and end user is straightforward enough when it involves a single application. The structure becomes more complex, however, when dealing with multiple, separate SaaS applications. As noted above, companies often have hundreds, or more discrete applications required to help manage their operations.
Integrating these disparate systems into a single, cohesive framework that allows them to leverage their complementary elements requires another piece of infrastructure to organize, manage and integrate all the moving parts. This is what’s known as a platform. One example of a SaaS platform that many readers are probably familiar with is TV streaming devices such as Roku or Fire TV. These streaming devices create a platform from which multiple, individual, cloud-based applications can be accessed and managed consistently as “channels.”
Similarly, SaaS platforms for businesses can organize and manage multiple different SaaS applications. Such platforms can go a step further, however, and integrate those different applications. For example, an accounts receivable application that tracks customer payments of invoices; an accounts payable application that tracks payments owed to vendors, and an application that manages payroll can all be integrated with an accounting application that tracks and manages the finances of the organization.
Platforms that provide this integration need to be able to facilitate communication between distinct systems, that are created and managed by different SaaS providers that may use different computing languages. Integration can provide then enormous benefits to businesses in terms of organization, data management, and efficiency. When these platforms are provided via the cloud, they are known as integration platforms as a service or iPaaS.
Top iPaaS Providers
There are several businesses in the iPaaS space. Some of the more prominent participants are:
Boomi offers a single-instance, multi-tenant platform that is valued for its flexibility, agility, scalability, redundancy, availability, and automatic upgrades.
Jitterbit allows users to integrate thousands of applications by leveraging pre-built templates and workflows. Jitterbit leverages APIs and artificial intelligence to streamline integration.
IBM Clould Pak markets itself as the industry’s “only hybrid only hybrid cloud platform experience, enabling business and IT teams to build and modernize applications faster across any cloud or IT infrastructure.” IBM Cloud Pak leverages both artificial intelligence as well as IBM’s extensive human-based expertise at software and integration.
Software applications are a double-edged sword for businesses. While these applications can offer tremendous capabilities, they need to be managed and maintained by those with sufficient knowledge and expertise to ensure availability, efficiency, and proper overall functioning, not to mention facilitating the collaboration among various applications. The software-as-a-service, or “SaaS” model helps by outsourcing the maintenance of the applications and the underlying infrastructure. iPaaS takes things a step further by creating cloud-based platforms to integrate potentially thousands of applications in ways that allow for more efficient and integrated workflows and capabilities.
NITCO Inc. has certified and experienced Boomi, Jitterbit and IBM technical resources that are available today to help you accelerate your digital automation journey on iPaaS.
Ready to learn more? Get in touch with the experts to learn more about NITCO’s iPaas solutions and services.