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Integration Futures: iPaaS Has Arrived

Integration platform-as-a-service, or iPaaS, is a big category: it encompasses everything from traditional application and data integration to integration between and among REST-ful applications.

By now, Gartner Inc. has a "Magic Quadrant" for virtually every technology category.

The market watcher even has a Magic Quadrant for Integration Platform-as-a-Service, or iPaaS, offerings. Depending on one's perspective, it could make for some very interesting reading.

For one thing, the iPaaS market positively teems with contestants: Gartner's latest "Magic Quadrant for Integration Platform-as-a-Service" report tallies no fewer than 17 vendors. From a data management (DM) perspective, the sheer variety of vendors -- to say nothing of the breadth and esoteric nature of the problems they address with their solutions -- is what's most interesting.

"Integration" used to be treated as a discrete, domain-specific discipline. In one corner, you had application integration, which dealt with events and messages, and the backbone of which was the enterprise service bus (ESB). In the other, you had data integration, which was closely associated with ETL. iPaaS, on the other hand, encompasses everything from traditional application integration and DI to integration between and among REST-ful -- that's "REST" as in "representational state transfer" -- applications. As the Gartner report makes clear, the iPaaS market has a very big tent.

It has to. "The most frequent use case for iPaaS is ... 'cloud services integration' ... which is the problem of integrating a combination of on-premises applications and data, SaaS applications, and other cloud-services," the Gartner report explains. "However, iPaaS offerings increasingly are used to support other scenarios, such as B2B integration, API publishing and management, and mobile app integration."

But wait, Gartner continues, there's more: "The iPaaS offerings can also be used for certain types of on-premises integration projects, because providers introduced technologies and deployment models specifically targeting this use case."

Some of of the names will be intensely familiar to data management professionals: data integration (DI) powerhouses such as IBM Corp. and Informatica Corp. are represented (IBM as a "Visionary," Informatica as a "Leader"), as are BI vendors SAP AG and application and data integration specialist SnapLogic Inc. (both "Visionaries"). There's also Dell Boomi, Dell Inc.'s cloud integration unit, which Gartner names as one of three iPaaS "Leaders." Other well-known (to DM technologists) players include Tibco Inc. -- which Gartner lists as a "Niche" player -- Attunity Inc. (also "Niche") and Actian Corp., ("Visionary") which last year acquired best-of-breed DI specialist Pervasive Software Inc. Enterprise computing giants Fujitsu and NEC are also represented.

From the DM practitioner's point of view, however, Gartner's iPaaS Magic Quadrant brims with the strange and unfamiliar: from companies such as MuleSoft (a "Leader") -- which is a prominent purveyor of cloud-to-on-premises integration software -- to a raft of "Niche" players in Flowgear (a South African vendor), Jitterbit Inc., TerraSky Inc., and Vigience Ltd.

Most of the vendors in Gartner's iPaaS Magic Quadrant fall into the "Niche" category, and most "Niche" players either target highly specialized integration scenarios or are still in the quasi-stealthy start-up phase. However, Gartner projects that demand for iPaaS services, triggered by an "explosion" of new requirements (cloud service integration, mobile application integration, API publishing and management, and the much-ballyhooed "Internet of Things") will create a market boomlet of sorts over the next half-decade.

In the here-and-now, companies are tapping iPaaS both for obvious -- e.g., cloud- or SaaS-to-on-premises connectivity -- and for not-so-obvious reasons, Gartner explains.

"[U]se of iPaaS has been leveraged especially for projects where the use of a high-end, on-premises integration platform, even if already in place, would not be easy to justify, because of time to integration, cost, deployment complexity, lack of local skills, and lack of adapters for specific SaaS applications, among other reasons," the report sayss.

"This implies that in large organizations, iPaaS buyers often are not central IT departments," the report points out. "iPaaS buyers tend to be [line-of-business] managers, subsidiary directors or leaders of other decentralized organizational entities engaged in IT projects not under the control of the central IT department. In some cases, even individuals -- not necessarily IT professionals working for some form of IT department -- turn to iPaaS to address simple, often one-off personal integration issues ... for example, loading Twitter feeds into Google Docs spreadsheets."

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