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We live in the golden age of cloud computing. Service providers use the internet to deliver everything from storage to software applications. Two critical services have emerged: Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS).

iPaaS and PaaS are two cloud computing models that streamline business operations, but they cater to different needs. While iPaaS focuses on integration and seamless data flow between services, PaaS gives developers a playground to create and innovate. Both are game-changers, but your choice depends on whether you want to bridge gaps between applications or develop new ones from scratch.

Businesses are getting on board — globally, 60% of corporate data is stored in the cloud. And these businesses need cloud platform tools to help them manage data, connect systems, and build apps.

Let's examine these solutions in depth and determine how (and if) they can help your business succeed. This guide will focus on iPaaS processes vs. ETL, which can also play a role in your data strategy.

iPaaS vs PaaS

PaaS and iPaaS are both cloud-based computing platforms.

iPaaS is an integration platform that enables enterprises to connect apps, data sources, devices, and systems that aren't natively designed to work together – a digital Swiss Army knife for connecting various cloud and on-premises applications, automating workflows, and enabling data sharing across multiple platforms without manual coding. Think of it as the ultimate facilitator for app communication.

On the other hand, PaaS provides a sandbox environment for developers, offering the tools and infrastructure needed to build, deploy, and manage applications without the hassle of maintaining the underlying hardware and software layers.

While these two services have a few commonalities, they tend to suit different businesses. Let's take a closer look at the key differences and nuances.

What is PaaS?

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a scalable, cloud-based platform to develop, test, run, and manage apps. The PaaS provider hosts all the necessary components, including software, hardware, servers, and infrastructure. They also handle maintenance and updates, so you're always working with the latest version of each tool or feature.

Every PaaS is different, but most include a few key features:

  • Development tools – Providers typically offer all the tools you need for building and testing apps, including a code editor, compiler, debugger, testing framework, and version control system.
  • Middleware – This software sits between operating systems and apps, enabling them to work together smoothly.
  • Operating systems – PaaS includes the operating systems you need to develop and run applications. The provider takes care of OS management, patching, and upgrades.

PaaS can be a good option for small companies that need a robust development environment — without the cost or IT burden of building and maintaining an in-house platform. Since PaaS solutions come with cloud access and multi-platform support, they also work well for dispersed teams.

What is iPaaS?

Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a cloud-based integration platform. It acts as a management layer that enables you to build integrations and share accurate data between disparate cloud apps, SaaS applications, IoT devices, and on-premises systems. As with PaaS, iPaaS providers host and manage all the necessary hardware, software, and infrastructure. 

The core components of iPaaS include:

  • Connectors – iPaaS subscriptions come with access to a library of connectors. These pre-built code snippets enable you to create an integration in just a few clicks. Many platforms also include low-code integration templates, no-code graphical interface builders, and high-code options to accommodate a range of users.
  • Middleware – An iPaaS platform includes all the middleware you need to connect cloud-based and on-premises systems.
  • Data mappingData mapping tools enable you to map fields between apps and systems, ensuring the integrity and accuracy of each integration.
  • Monitoring – The iPaaS monitoring tools provide visibility into every integration for easier troubleshooting and debugging.

Large companies that use multiple cloud services and on-premises systems typically see the most value from iPaaS platforms. This technology can also benefit businesses looking to share data more effectively between departments or branches.

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Benefits PaaS vs iPaaS Solutions Offer

Compared to their traditional on-premises alternatives, PaaS and iPaaS both offer significant advantages for businesses. Most key benefits stem from the fact that both platforms are hosted and managed by third-party vendors.

Scalability

  • PaaS: Most PaaS vendors, including Heroku and Red Hat OpenShift, offer pay-as-you-go plans. That way, you're only spending money on the resources you need. Simply add or remove capacity when you're ready to scale.
  • iPaaS: iPaaS solutions make it easy to add integrations as your company grows. Since the infrastructure supports both on-premises and cloud resources, it adapts easily to multiple clouds while maintaining integration with legacy systems. Even if your company's infrastructure is tied up in an ancient ERP or an old Oracle database, you can still integrate new technologies.

Cost Efficiency

  • PaaS: PaaS is a cost-effective way to enable robust software development. It saves money on building, maintaining, and updating an on-premises platform. Be sure to factor in development costs; if you want to connect apps, you'll need to code your own point-to-point integrations.
  • iPaaS: While iPaaS has a higher initial purchase price, its flexible integrations and customizable data flows can reduce manual data transfers and development costs. With pre-built connectors, employees of varying technical abilities can create custom integrations that improve accuracy and save money.

Improved Time to Market

  • PaaS: When there's no need to manage the underlying infrastructure, your team can spend time on software development and deployment and get new apps to market faster.
  • iPaaS: Convenient iPaaS integrations help you onboard new applications and systems quickly. When you have a new product in the works, iPaaS can integrate the engineering, testing, sales, and marketing platforms to eliminate data silos. This reduces bottlenecks and promotes fast, informed decision-making.

Enhanced Security

  • PaaS: Choose a PaaS provider with updated security protocols to protect your code and customer data. Some platforms offer encryption, physical infrastructure controls, and backup plans when the system goes down.
  • iPaaS: Advanced iPaaS solutions come with the latest encryption standards and data security features. If you work in a highly regulated industry, features such as access control, activity logs, and multi-factor authentication can help improve compliance. By building automations and integrations to align with regulations, you can reduce the risk of human error.

Customization and Flexibility

  • PaaS: Compared to an in-house platform, PaaS gives your team the flexibility to work on development projects from anywhere.
  • iPaaS: An iPaaS platform is inherently flexible and adapts easily to your current operations. With customizable connectors and data transformation tools, you can fine-tune your data flows to meet the company's exact integration needs.

iPaaS and PaaS Use Cases

Both PaaS and iPaaS open up a range of interesting opportunities for software startups and massive multinational corporations. Here are a few use cases to illustrate the possibilities.

PaaS: Rapid Application Development

A PaaS is an affordable way for startups to stay competitive in fast-paced industries. You can use the platform to design an efficient workflow that streamlines coding, testing, and deployment — and, in the process, beat larger, clunkier competitors to market. To maximize speed, look for a PaaS platform that's user-friendly and compatible with your preferred languages, frameworks, and security requirements. Updates are faster with PaaS, too.

PaaS Use Case

Software provider Visma discovered that by switching to Microsoft Azure, its subsidiary companies were able to release updates multiple times per week rather than a few times a year.

iPaaS: Legacy and Multi-Cloud System Integration

If your business has been around for a while, it likely uses a mix of disconnected cloud and legacy systems. This is where iPaaS shines — it replaces existing application integrations and creates a single, interconnected system. Choose between connectors, templates, and custom-coded integrations to find the most efficient solution for every app.

Compared to point-to-point integrations and old APIs, iPaaS is both streamlined and versatile. It integrates multiple cloud services, including your CRM and ERP, as well as legacy databases. Many platforms also support top API tools. With its centralized management system, the iPaaS allows easier data analysis and troubleshooting across the entire ecosystem.

PaaS: Internal Collaboration and Creativity

A PaaS is an ideal solution for companies that want to promote collaboration and innovation. The platform can double as a repository for shared resources. Team members might draw inspiration from colleagues' work and reuse code to speed up development.  Since employees from different teams, departments, and branches can access the same files, PaaS supports creative experimentation.

iPaaS: Streamlining Business Processes

An iPaaS platform is useful across an enterprise, but it can also benefit teams and individual employees. The magic lies in the user-friendly connectors and templates — they make it easy for non-coders to set up sophisticated integrations that streamline business processes.

iPaaS Use Case

Imagine your marketing manager wants to send personalized email promotions. Using iPaaS, she can integrate the CRM, purchase history, and email marketing program. By customizing the integrations, it’s possible to create automations that:

 

    • Segment customers into email lists based on purchase history

    • Populate email templates with customer information

    • Trigger a welcome email sequence each time someone buys a specific product

Given the flexibility of iPaaS, employees can automate, streamline, and optimize a wide range of processes to save time and energy.

Takeaways

Although PaaS and iPaaS have similar names, they're designed for different users. iPaaS platforms help large enterprises improve data sharing by integrating a wide variety of data sources, IoT devices, cloud applications, and on-premises systems. PaaS platforms create a central, collaborative hub for application development, deployment, and management. Both options are cost-effective alternatives to rigid in-house platforms.

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By Katie Sanders

As a data-driven content strategist, editor, writer, and community steward, Katie helps technical leaders win at work. Her 14 years of experience in the tech space makes her well-rounded to provide technical audiences with expert insights and practical advice through Q&As, Thought Leadership, Ebooks, etc.