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Integration on the Edge: Data Explosion & Next-Gen Integration

Hollis Tibbetts

Where Do I Buy Gartner Research's iPaaS? Cloud & SaaS Integration Confusion

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What's an iPaaS and where can I get one?

I've been reading the various reports from Gartner Research that have been coming out since early 2011 on this topic.

To be perfectly straightforward, Gartner's lengthy iPaaS reports leave me a bit confused, and I've been deeply involved in Integration technologies since 1997. And I'm hearing an increasing volume of confusion out there on the topic of Cloud-based Integration as a result of these new iPaaS reports.

Gartner Research iPaaS Cloud SaaS Integration

So what is an "iPaaS"- iPaaS is an acronym created by Gartner Research and it stands for "Integration Platform as a Service". But that probably doesn't help much.

What IS Gartner Research's iPaaS?

An article by Loraine Lawson attempts to clarify that further by going back to the source: "Gartner defines iPaaS as 'a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual, or across multiple, organizations.'"

Ok...that didn't help much either. That's not Ms. Lawson's fault - she was quoting Gartner Research - and they're quite particular about being quoted exactly.

If you read the various Gartner Research reports, an iPaaS is a dizzying array of features, capabilities, integration model support and architectures: protocol bridging, message transports, transformation, routing, service virtualization, adapters, orchestration, partner community management, managed file transfer, registry/repository, development tools, artifacts lifecycle management, policy management and enforcement, federation, usage tracking and management, monitoring, b2b integration, ETL, data integration, data federation, SOA governance, SOA enablement, federated SOA support, ESB, and so on.

At this point, I'm pretty confused, but I'd like to get my hands on an iPaaS, as it sounds like some pretty wild technology.

Who's Confused about iPaaS?

Well, besides me. I talk to a lot of software vendors - 7 or 8 of them this week alone. More if you count email or Facebook "back-and-forths".

And especially since September, between the ISVs (mostly SaaS) I've been in touch with and a number of enterprises, there's been a distinct level of confusion and even consternation over the term iPaaS. To paraphrase one CTO at a SaaS startup in Massachusetts, "I thought I had integration all figured out ... and then this happens".

I'm feeling much better, though - people who are far smarter than I am are also confused. That's always a good sign.iPaaS CEIP

Search for the Elusive SaaS Integration iPaaS

Thus I began my search to figure out where I could buy an iPaaS. And here's what I found out. You cannot buy an iPaaS. There is no such product - not even on Amazon.com.

By that I mean that you cannot buy any single product that even remotely begins to incorporate all of the capabilities specified by Gartner Research as "iPaaS".

There are a significant number of very worthy and proven products out there that provide rich functionality, rapid time to benefit, and possess certain of the capabilities specified by Gartner Research as iPaaS.

And there is ZERO reason to not move forward with one of those products if it fits your integration needs. In fact, there is EVERY reason to move forward immediately.

To construct an iPaaS that meets all of the Gartner Research criteria would involve somehow gluing together perhaps 20 products from a host of different vendors. What you would end up with is some sort of behemoth "camel" product - and 99% of all integration projects would use less than 2% of its capabilities. Chances are that this is not what you're looking for.

What is Gartner Research's Cloud Integration iPaaS, then?

iPaaS is an incredibly broad category of technologies which possess a very wide range of capabilities. That's all - a giant umbrella category of technologies which - one way or another are related to integration of one sort or another.

In short, it's a lot of things that you don't need - and a few things that you probably do need (possibly very badly).

Remember, Gartner Research is the king of category creation. For example, Gartner is credited with creating the category "Business Intelligence" and those very cool "Magic Quadrants".

In most cases, the creation of a category is a helpful thing - it serves to reduce confusion in the marketplace about some new technology by grouping together a number of highly similar products. Typically products that are put together in a category compete against each other. Like Coke and Pepsi. Or Business Objects and MicroStrategy (in the case of BI). This is incredibly useful for helping people grok new emerging technologies. It's just the right level of affinity.

In the case of iPaaS, that benefit of reducing confusion has not entirely been achieved. Cloud-based integration technologies are still relatively new. And to lump together so many different technologies, capabilities, integration models and such - most of which would never be used together on even the very largest of projects, is bound to result in bewilderment.

So, to put this in context, here's a quick quiz - patterned after one of those analogy questions in the college entrance exams. Please pick the MOST correct answer:

"Business Intelligence" is to "Sport Utility Vehicles" as "iPaaS" is to:

1) Tennis Ball
2) World Peace
3) Yellow
4) Transportation

The most correct answer is (4) - Transportation. I'll give you partial credit, though, for "World Peace", as it's also a very big and difficult to imagine thing - and it's likely to be a very long time before it happens.

The 2011 Word of the Year: Pragmatic

When the time came for Merriam-Webster to pick its top word of 2011, its editors chose the word "pragmatic".

It is an adjective that means practical and logical - and it was looked up so often on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary it became their choice for its 2011 Word of the Year.

I like the word "pragmatic" because (to me) it implies useful. Free of un-necessary complications. It's the most direct path to success. The most efficient and LEAST RISKY way to move forward.

Although I appreciate how Gartner has begun the process of creating a framework for Cloud-based Integration technologies, iPaaS is neither pragmatic nor useful for the vast majority of organizations.

As it is a new and evolving category - and full of new and evolving products, perhaps it will evolve into something pragmatic. But as it stands now, it's essentially a big giant wish list of things that you can't have, wouldn't need - and honestly, would not want all in one package anyways.

Another thing you can't have: a CEIP. No, I'm not referring to Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, Microsoft's Customer Experience Improvement Program, the California Emerging Infections Program or the U.N.'s Centre on Emission Inventories and Projections (the top 4 Google Search results for CEIP).

It's Gartner-speak for Cloud-Enabled Integration Platform. In many cases, the research reports lump iPaaS and CEIP together as in "iPaaS/CEIP". From what I can tell, a CEIP is an iPaaS that is also a software product. Whatever it is, and however it's different from iPaaS, you can't buy a CEIP either.

The Cost of Waiting for an iPaaS for Cloud Integration

If you wait around for an iPaaS product suite to appear on the market that covers all of the territory specified in the iPaaS reference model, you will be a much older person than you are today. Your competitors will eat your lunch and get rich at your expense.

In many ways, Gartner's iPaaS reference model (in all its complexity and ambitiously broad scale) is "everything you DON'T need to know about Cloud Integration to be successful".

Tomorrow I'm going to be Pragmatic. I'm going to write about the inverse of iPaaS - "Everything You Need to Know to be Successful with Cloud Integration". Click here to go directly to that article.

You'll be surprised at how simple Cloud Integration can be when you focus on the only thing that matters - what do you need to do to be successful with it.

My best wishes for your pragmatic integration future.

pragmatic [prægˈmætɪk] adj

1. advocating behaviour that is dictated more by practical consequences than by theory or dogma
2. (Philosophy) Philosophy of or relating to pragmatism
3. involving everyday or practical business


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This blog offers an informed and informative perspective on the ongoing explosion of data and the technologies used to turn this data explosion into assets and competitive advantages.

Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell's Global Software Group. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. His latest communication venture is http://OnlineBackupNews.com - a free resource site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems by providing online backup best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

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