Yeah, What Is an iPaaS, Anyway?

Loraine Lawson

I recently read a blog post by Ross Mason, the CTO and founder of MuleSoft, called "Introducing integration PaaS (iPaaS)." A subhead asked the reader, "What is iPaaS?"


That's when I realized I wasn't 100 percent for sure what it means-which is kind of a problem, given my job.


Now, I'm not clueless about iPaaS-it means integration platform-as-a-service. Although, it's also true that this acronym is sometimes used for other things, such as Intellectual Property as a Service, with its capital "I," capital "P."


But I still found myself thinking, "Yeah-what the heck is an iPaaS anyway?"


In technology, acronyms seldom tell the whole story. As my editor-in-chief, Kachina Shaw, once observed, if you're outside IT, knowing ESB stands for "enterprise service bus" really tells you nothing more about what it is or what it does than the acronym itself. Knowing iPaaS stands for integration platform-as-a-service is the same way. There's still plenty of room for confusion.


Here's what I knew about iPaaS going into this:

  • It's a platform for developing ways to integrate with cloud and on-premise apps-in other words, it's a PaaS for integration.
  • MuleSoft offers an iPaaS, as does Workday.
  • It's discussed as if it's an established offering-even MuleSoft notes that itself and others such as Workday are offering iPaaS. But so far, I haven't been able to identify any other vendors that embrace this term, which makes you wonder if it'll stick.
  • One thing that may help: Gartner recognizes and uses the term. In fact, it recently published a research note about iPaaS, although it's only available to subscribers.


That's a pretty short list for someone who sorts through a ton of content on integration every week. But I suspect we'll hear more about iPaaS as the year matures.


For one thing, Gartner formed a group of analysts dedicated to researching the topic, according to this blog post by Benoit Lheureux, a Gartner Research VP and agenda manager for the application infrastructure group:

Look for research on 'integration platform as a service' (iPaaS), an evolved form of integration as a service (IaaS) that delivers a hybrid combination of integration, governance, security and other interoperability capabilities delivered in the Cloud to link applications, SOA services and Cloud services. In 2011 Massimo Pezzini will lead a group of analysts including myself in an active 2011 research agenda on this concept.

So, already we have a more detailed definition. It's not just a way of providing or building cloud integrators-it also includes tools to support governance, security and other tangential capabilities.


I suspect Mason will be one of the leading voices on shaping what an iPaaS is and isn't-assuming the term catches on. First, Mule is one of two vendors I've found that have embraced the term. Second, Mason is doing a lot of writing and talking about iPaaS and what it means. So, in that way, Mule may become the template for iPaaS.


Certainly, MuleSoft and Mason are doing their part to help define the term, which brings us back to Mason's article and the meaning of iPaaS. Mason says an iPaaS should have seven core capabilities:

  1. Intermediation, or the ability to integrate services and applications, across the cloud or on premise.
  2. Orchestration between services, which includes mapping the data between the services, managing workflow and event processing.
  3. Service containers, so users can wrap a service in either their own RESTful Web services or SOAP and Web Services.
  4. Security.
  5. An enterprise data gateway, which adds security by acting as an on-premise proxy for enterprise data.
  6. Developer tools.
  7. Runtime monitoring, for monitoring service-level agreements.


As I've said before, this is a third option for providing integration with and within the cloud. I would think it would appeal to companies that don't mind building their own code and to IT shops that need to integrate any cloud silos business units may have created.


It should be interesting to see whether iPaaS-both the term and the approach-catch on.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 3, 2011 10:14 AM Rca Ieftin Rca Ieftin  says:

I am glad to see that you are able to ask at the question about what is iPaaS. I was thinking the iPaaS was another thing but now the term is pretty clear in my mind.

Oct 19, 2011 9:00 AM loukili loukili  says:

Thanks for the article.

Here is an ipaas provider called beesphere to add to the shot list .

Jul 30, 2013 3:02 PM ChristopheP ChristopheP  says:
There is a category of iPaaS that provides "lightweight" integrations between popular Cloud/SaaS applications for free or very low cost to end users. An example of such iPaaS is CloudWork (https://cloudwork.com/) that integrates on top of APIs most of the popular SaaS and offers white lbel integration services directly to SaaS developers: http://get.cloudwork.com/white-label-saas-integrations/ ProgrammableWeb has published an article titled "The Growing Trend of Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)" that identifies what is driving the iPaaS trends and some of the key players: http://blog.programmableweb.com/2013/07/17/the-growing-trend-of-integration-platform-as-a-service-ipaas/ Reply
Apr 27, 2015 10:30 PM John John  says:
Companies such as the big Amazon are also offering enterprise level infrastructure and other on demand application platforms that can deliver unparalleled performance coupled with instant scale. As if the quality of service wasn’t enough, these enterprise technologies are also being made available at prices that even lone developers can afford. This is largely thanks to the advent of software defined systems and technologies such as open stack that make the delivery of computing resources at any scale very efficient. The old views of simply having everything in house are going out the window so IPAAS companies are going to be able to gain real traction over the coming few years. Reply

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