While given a common name, not all integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) are built the same, in fact far from it. Much like purchasing a car, the destination of adding integrations to your product may look the same, but getting there (and how fast) can be wildly different. While there are many resources that help you ask the right questions when car shopping, there is relatively little when it comes to evaluating an integration platform. These eight questions will help guide you when kicking the tires on an iPaaS.
1. Who will handle the updates?
The structure of APIs are fluid. Application providers continually enhance their endpoints for consumers, but who will make the updates in your integration? Is maintenance and versioning included in the integration platform or does the burden of upkeep fall to you?
2. Are integration patterns point-to-point or one-to-many?
The underlying architecture becomes important as you look to scale your integration strategy. Using a point-to-point, or one-to-one integration pattern is only helpful in the first integration - meaning with each new integration, you are forced to start from scratch. Leveraging a one-to-many integration pattern, however, allows you to reuse a common virtual data resource for all of your integrations. This not only reduces the development time for subsequent integrations but also allows you to better manage the data you care about..
3. What is the development environment?
Will your development team take up arms in mutiny or adopt and evangelize? The best environment is one that will make integrations suck less, not force them to learn a proprietary system, requiring certifications, because it's too complicated for mere mortals. Easily accessible web-based platforms are preferred. They inherently allow for transferability to other team members. Likewise, working with open specifications free of proprietary languages prevents vendor lock-in.
4. What was it built for?
Ferrari's were sold to fund it's racing team while Model-T's were sold in black for the masses. Similarly, some integration platforms evolved out of expensive ESBs (Enterprise Service Bus) while others were created to support data in modern cloud-based applications. Choose an integration partner that matches your approach to integrations.
5. Power and ease of orchestrations?
Implementing business logic at the API level allows developers to remove complexity from the core application into a centralized and reusable resource applications can consume on-demand. Your iPaaS needs to have a robust orchestration engine capable of handling complex workflows. However, the powerful orchestration is only valuable when it's exponentially faster than developing it in your own application. Look for low-code orchestrations that increase speed and ease of building business logic.
6. The size of the applications catalog?
Leading organizations pursue integrations with entire ecosystems of applications instead of just aligning themselves to one major player. Does your iPaaS focus only on a few applications or certain verticals? Or does it have a broad catalog that can grow with you as you expand product offerings? Make sure your iPaaS won't be the limiting factor in the number of ecosystems your organization can reach.
7. The depth of the integrations in the catalog?
Quantity is only helpful if there is also a depth of quality that accompanies it. The ability to connect is relatively easy, but true integration is hard. Each connector needs to; search with ease, normalize pagination, provide a framework for events and simplify authentication. To be ready for scale, they should also have the ability to perform bulk data loads.
8. Who controls the user experience?
Do you want your customers to create an integration seamlessly in your application or visit a 3rd party site? The user experience between these two can be drastic with varying levels of confidence on who really owns the data. Customers adopt and stick with integrations they trust. Ask if your integration platform can truly create a white labeled experience that accelerates adoption or instead introduces confusion.
If you want to increase your confidence when purchasing a car, you should bring a mechanic. They ask the questions you might not have thought of, helping to decipher between lasting value and lemons. While there are fewer integration experts to bring along when evaluating an iPaaS, these guiding questions will help distinguish strengths and weaknesses in choosing a platform that matches your integration strategy.