Alan Zeichick | Content Strategist | October 18, 2023
Your organization has many applications and data sources, and those business resources need to work with each other. Perhaps a sales platform needs to interoperate with an inventory system, a product configurator, and a billing system. Or different business units in your organization use separate, large-scale enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that have overlapping functionality and need synchronization and orchestration to carry out business processes.
As these examples show, companies very often need to stitch together multiple applications to deliver the data needed to make complicated business operations work and to automate and improve those operations using event-driven applications. An enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS) can help companies make those connections. And perhaps most importantly, an EiPaaS can help business leads and developers deliver projects faster, letting them create those connections quickly while keeping operational overhead low.
Why is fast and effective integration like this essential? To put it simply, today’s organizations live in a world of more—more data, applications, services, and users. Instead of businesses getting bogged down by all their data, they can see the amount of data, and the diversity of applications and services they run, as opportunities. With speedy and efficient integration, sufficient compute and storage capacity, and the right developer tools and prebuilt interfaces, including no-code and low-code interfaces for rapid development, organizations can use EiPaaS to connect applications, data, and services in support of event-driven applications and powerful analytics.
An enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS) is a set of cloud-based services used to link together many of a company’s applications, data, and services—whether they’re homegrown or commercially licensed and whether they run in an on-premises data center or in the cloud. It can even integrate applications, data, and services offered by an organization’s partners and suppliers—and if those external platforms aren’t directly compatible, help by transforming data, in real time, as needed. EiPaaS supports the development, operation, and governance of these integrations.
Breaking down the definition of EiPaaS: Enterprise integration refers to all the services, including prebuilt connectors, visualization, execution, governance, and development tools needed to connect applications, data, and services. Platform as a service (PaaS) means that these are vendor-managed services are running in the cloud; iPaaS is the subset of PaaS that developers use to accelerate app connections and extensions. The lexicon is changing to drop the word “enterprise,” so that some people refer to EiPaaS as just iPaaS.
An EiPaaS can connect diverse back- and front-office systems, such as payroll, tax services, finance, inventory, order management billing, human resources, and customer management, for the purposes of efficiency and productivity. The automation and orchestration capabilities of an EiPaaS can facilitate complex, multistep business operations. Important capabilities include moving data in batches or streams, creating and managing API endpoints, transforming and preparing data when needed, and supporting queries that pull from multiple data sources. Integration platforms also can help companies working to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) services, supporting the introduction of conversational AI and models for functions such as vision or document recognition.
Enterprise integration (EI), also known as application integration, is the umbrella term for making disparate software systems work with each other using one connectivity system. The integration platform provides the development environment, including prebuilt integrations, to let various applications talk with each other, providing communications, data transformations and transfers, reliability, and scalability. In addition, enterprise integration platforms offer programmable orchestration of complex multistep transactions that use many different software systems; the orchestration allows developers to create a connected ecosystem with robust rules for handling unexpected issues, full logging of each successful or failed step in the transaction, and flexibility to adapt to changing business conditions. Providing all that enables complex transactions far beyond what any single application can do.
Historically, EI was dedicated software in an organization’s data center. The trend today is to run data integration in the cloud (called iPaaS, for integration platform as a service, or EiPaaS, for enterprise integration platform as a service), so that it can reach into the enterprise’s on-premises and cloud applications. The integration PaaS itself can also be accessed by authorized business users with a secure internet connection, no matter where they are—in the office, at home, or at a customer site.
Enterprise integration is a fairly straightforward concept: An organization has a number of applications, databases, and services. Some of them expose their functionality via application programming interfaces (APIs), but many do not, and instead they require prebuilt adapters or extensible off-the-shelf integration recipes. Some of those applications run in the cloud; others reside in on-premises data centers. Those applications can be off-the-shelf commercial offerings, and others might be homegrown. That’s where the EI platform comes in—to take care of the API management, or otherwise arranging for the transfer of relevant data and metadata between applications, no matter what architectures or supporting infrastructure are in use. EiPaaS runs that platform from the cloud as a service.
In this approach to the integration challenge, the EI platform is configured to know about all those applications and databases, and it has the proper secured access to those applications’ APIs. The EI platform can then respond to actions originating within one of those applications—such as a customer order or inventory replenishment—to cause appropriate actions to happen in the other applications. To meet integration requirements, the EI platform uses its internal logic and programmed workflow, as well as information about those applications’ APIs, data formats, and messaging formats, to ensure that all the actions needed to execute a task can happen with minimal delay, while avoiding costly errors.
Using an EI platform in the cloud—that is, using EiPaaS—ensures that the EI platform itself is scalable and up to date, with the benefit of ensuring that it has access to all the APIs of the organization’s cloud-based and on-premises applications. If demand for the EiPaaS increases, such as a rash of API calls from an application, the cloud provider should be able to automatically add computing capacity so that the platform meets that request without slowing down. Assuming the EiPaaS platform contains well-built adapters and integrations—and those adapters and integrations are supported and extensible—they will continue to perform even when the individual applications and other endpoints upgrade. Compared to a data center–based EI platform, a cloud-based EiPaaS is easier for employees to access and enables easier secure integration with partners and suppliers.
Companies today rely on many applications, not only for transaction processing and service delivery but also for financials and auditing, analytics, customer experience, human capital management, security oversight, content management, and more. To get something done, it almost always takes information from more than one of those applications. Both business leaders and developers face pressure to deliver these projects more quickly, while holding down costs, which means they need an efficient and reliable way to build those application and data connections.
Not only do even the simplest business processes require operating data from different sources, but many business and workflow processes also often require complicated chains of carefully sequenced actions: “IF this happens, THEN do this. IF the action is successful, do this BUT if something goes wrong (such as customer payment is delayed or the item is backordered) THEN do this other thing instead.” By providing the data needed to orchestrate these steps, EiPaaS can help commerce move forward by following the proper processes. However, rules-based orchestration such as this has been around for years, and it’s only the start. Businesses are going beyond rules-based logic to invest in projects to support dynamic, data-driven, and event-driven process flows—ones that are aware of a larger business context, not just their narrow function. Delivering those projects relies on the broad capabilities of EiPaaS.
Without such orchestration, employees may need to conduct each step manually, which can lead to errors if they don’t take actions properly, or delays if no employee sees or acts on a notification right away. In today’s instant-satisfaction, ecommerce world, delays can cause customer dissatisfaction, reduced efficiency, and missed opportunities to complete a transaction or resolve a problem. The benefits of orchestration can be realized even for smaller organizations; the real drivers are the number of steps in a business process and the number of applications that are touched by all those steps. Or, to put it in other terms: EiPaaS lays the foundation for simpler, more engaging self-service interactions between people, applications, and data across the organization.
There are many benefits of cloud-based enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS) to an organization, including the following:
A full-featured, vendor-managed enterprise integration platform in the cloud—EiPaaS—contains most or all of these key features or capabilities.
Enterprise architecture represents a view across an entire organization of the applications, data, infrastructure, integrations, business services, processes and workflows, compliance systems, and security framework needed to run business operations. Those views can help the organization innovate new ways to make them better. Central to a successful enterprise architecture is a solid understanding of the applications being used, the data that drives those applications, and the way those work together in business operations to respond to changing marketing conditions and new business strategies.
Enterprise integration platform as a service has evolved alongside the broader industry shift of operations from on-premises data centers to the cloud. One key trend is for companies to avoid niche integration tools that just do one job well, and instead work with a full-stack platform that has the breadth and depth to connect a wide range of applications and data sources. Facing pressure to deliver quickly, companies also are leaning more heavily on prebuilt integrations, adapters, and recipes that a broader platform can provide. Niche tools place more of the burden of integration on the company’s own developers and administrators, which can add to costs, complexity, and risk.
Another trend in enterprise integration patterns is to use the cloud as an integration point. Companies increasingly integrate applications and data that reside in multiple clouds, live in multiple on-premises data centers, and are provided by a number of partners and third-party sources. They’re also integrating real-time, streaming data to support event-driven apps; such integrations put a premium on reliability. An integration platform in the cloud—that is, EiPaaS—is reachable wherever internet connectivity is available and can provide scalability and resilience beyond what an integration platform hosted in an on-premises enterprise data center can offer. What’s more, using cloud-based integration can support the convergence of application and data integration, process automation, and even AI to make the most of an organization’s data and application capabilities.
Integration platforms also are taking on a growing and important role in helping companies build interfaces—for customers or employees—that must work across conversational AI (think next-gen chatbots), mobile apps, and the web. An EiPaaS can help companies pull in pretrained AI models in areas such as language and speech, vision, document recognition, and anomaly detection and make those skills part of a business process.
Broadly speaking, EiPaaS is helping companies solve problems related to the following:
Enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS) leverages the cloud to connect applications and data and to orchestrate complex integrations and business processes using APIs and messaging.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) integration services provide a cloud-based, enterprise integration and automation platform that helps developers quickly extend and connect any applications, services, and data sources. The OCI integration platform has been recognized by analysts in the top category among iPaaS providers. OCI integration services offers hundreds of prebuilt application and data integrations, low-code automation for quick connectivity, process automation, API management, and event-streaming support to help companies deliver projects faster with less overhead and less code.
OCI integration supports many non-Oracle systems, in the cloud and on-premises, including applications and services from Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Workday, and more. As of 2023, it included prebuilt connectors and integration capabilities that let companies connect more than 80 Oracle Cloud services; thousands of cloud, multicloud, and hybrid applications; and hundreds of on-premises applications. The service includes business accelerators, which are Oracle-supported recipes that leverage all OCI integration capabilities. Having prebuilt adapters and accelerators that are supported and customer extensions that are protected during upgrades, reduces or eliminates a major application upgrade headache. And OCI integration services help companies pursue a distributed cloud strategy—using the right deployment model for the job, delivering the full cloud experience wherever they need it—while maintaining data visibility, process reliability, and speed of execution.
How is EiPaaS different from enterprise integration?
A standard enterprise integration system runs in a business’s data center. By contrast, enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS) runs in the cloud.
How do enterprise applications communicate with an integration platform?
Enterprise integration platforms use APIs, connectors, and secure file transfers to link enterprise applications, databases, and other data sources. In some cases, data and instructions are sent via APIs using clearly defined messages and standardized data formats. In others, the integration platform extracts data from one application or database, transforms the data, and then loads it into another application.
What if enterprise applications use different formats or definitions for their data?
Leading enterprise integration platforms offer connectors to link applications together and transform data between formats as required. Many of these connectors also include APIs for direct programmatic access to the data transformation functions, including secure file transfers, data enrichment, and data validation.
Can enterprise integration platforms handle complex events and workflows?
Enterprise integration platforms can orchestrate complex, event-driven, and service-integrated workflows using visual developer tools. The workflows can be driven by events, metrics, or other business requirements.