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The different types of middleware solutions vs. iPaaS

Written by
Saad Merchant
Published on
August 3, 2021

Since the start of the digital age, businesses have expanded their digital growth and the services they provide by integrating multiple systems, applications, and data sources. The most effective way to build these integrations involves using an intermediary software called middleware, which helps other software communicate, exchange, and integrate data. Over the years, businesses have implemented many middleware integration solutions, such as Message-Oriented-Middleware (MOM), API management, Data integration, ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), and SaaS integration solutions. However, the advent of the iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) has ushered in a next-generation of API-driven, cloud-based middleware. The iPaaS incorporates many aspects of previous middleware solutions to build faster, more flexible, and future-proof integrations. Let's briefly explore the different kinds of middleware solutions that emerged over the years for application integrations.

The different types of modern middleware integration solutions

Middleware is a piece of software that sits in the middle of other software and applications - enabling them to communicate, exchange, and integrate data. So, how does it help build data and application integrations?

The traditional way to connect different systems or applications involves using custom code to build integrations between desired endpoints. This method is time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to maintain. Thus, in this case, a middleware solution provides the ideal framework to integrate all kinds of systems.

The three modern middleware integration solutions

While businesses have used many kinds of middleware over the years, three modern integration solutions that are most relevant for next-gen system integrations are:

  1. Traditional ESB solutions
  2. SaaS integration platforms
  3. The iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service)

1. Traditional ESB solutions

ESB, or Enterprise Service Bus, is an integration architecture framework from before the advent of the cloud. It has enabled businesses to go beyond building point-to-point integrations by connecting multiple applications from one central hub. As an on-premises middleware solution, it requires the installation of hardware. It functions as a centralized communication hub that simplifies and standardizes the integration of legacy systems with various applications, services, and databases. Since ESB solutions rely heavily on on-premises footprints, older messaging, and aging document standards, they are commonly used by enterprise businesses. They also require dedicated IT teams to be trained in managing integrations via the ESB.

Read more about the key differences between the iPaaS vs. ESB: On-Premises vs. Cloud-Based Middleware ->

2. SaaS integration platforms

As the name indicates, SaaS integration solutions are a type of middleware that integrate SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions with other cloud apps or on-premises systems using APIs. They offer pre-built connectors and adapters tailored to integrate popular SaaS applications in a faster and more streamlined manner. This integration solution may be designed to integrate only specific SaaS applications, and businesses may need to upgrade their subscription to integrate more types of apps. While SaaS integration platforms are great for integrating specific apps rapidly, they may result in vendor lock-in scenarios, making it difficult for businesses to change the applications they'ved integrated.

Read more about the differences and similarities between a SaaS solution and the iPaaS ->

3. The iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service)

The iPaaS is a cloud-based, “As-a-Service” no-code or low-code middleware solution. It's an API-driven middleware that helps seamlessly integrate multiple systems, SaaS, cloud apps, or data sources. As a next-gen integration solution, it encompasses broader integration capabilities beyond just SaaS applications, including on-premises systems, databases, APIs, and IoT devices. It enables businesses to create, monitor, and manage all their software integrations and data flows from one user-friendly web interface without custom code. Centralizing and standardizing data from all connected systems on a secure cloud space, the iPaaS facilitates real-time data exchange and synchronization. It also provides flexible data transformation features and the ability to build complex workflows to automate business processes across all connected systems.

Comparing the iPaaS with ESB and SaaS middleware solutions

Like an ESB, iPaaS solutions like Alumio are capable of integrating legacy systems with specialized connectors. However, by adopting an API-first approach, the iPaaS can also connect many more systems, SaaS, cloud apps, and data sources across both on-premises and cloud environments. While integration tools like the ESB need to be operated on-premises by trained IT professionals, the iPaaS provides a cloud-based web interface that both developers and citizen users (CTOs, project managers, junior developers) can remotely collaborate on to develop, govern, and orchestrate integrations.

Certain iPaaS vendors like Alumio provide pre-built connectors for diverse systems, SaaS, and cloud apps. The Alumio iPaaS provides special API plugins to speed up integrations with popular ERPs like SAP and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Going beyond mere SaaS integration capabilities, the Alumio iPaaS provides advanced features to help businesses build their own connectors to integrate unique software or systems. Additionally, the iPaaS provides advanced data mappers and transformers that provie the flexibility to constantly customize integrations as per evolving business needs.

According to reports, organizations with 1,000+ employees use 150+ SaaS applications, and those with fewer than 50 employee use an average of 16 SaaS solutions. Less than 30% of these apps are integrated.

Read more about how businesses are automating the integration journey with the iPaaS ->

A history of middleware solutions before the iPaaS

To understand modern middleware solutions like the iPaaS, ESB, and SaaS integration platforms better, it's essential to explore how middelware solutions have evolved over the years. Let's explore some of the first types of middleware developed to facilitate system integration.

Middleware solutions emerged in the 1970s and 1980s with the need to integrate databases and applications. Here are some of the middleware solutions that evolved with the various system integration challenges that changed over time:

  1. Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Middleware enables communication between distributed systems by getting processes or components to interact over a network. By abstracting the complexities of network communication, RPC middleware facilitates collaboration between systems by remotely invoking procedures and functions.
  2. Message-Oriented Middleware (MOM) enables systems and applications to communicate by sending and receiving messages. It facilitates asynchronous messaging and uses message queues or topics to ensure the delivery and consumption of messages.
  3. Data integration platforms help businesses to integrate data from different sources, formats, and systems across an organization. They typically implement Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) processes to unify data from disparate sources into one format and within one central repository.
  4. Web services middleware emerged with the advent of web service usage in the early 2000s. It enables integrations using communication protocols such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), REST (Representational State Transfer), and XML.
  5. API management platforms help create, manage, and secure Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). An API provides a standardized way for two applications or services to communicate. Thus, API management platforms help streamline how APIs are used to build integrations.
  6. Business Process Management (BPM) is a middleware that provides tools for orchestrating and automating business processes. Providing workflow engines and process automation tools, BPM helps build and monitor workflows while allowing integration with external systems.

How the iPaaS incorporates other middleware

As a next-gen solution, the iPaaS provides greater integration flexibility than the aforementioned middleware solutions. Holistic iPaaS vendors like Alumio effectively incorporate these middleware concepts within their platform features. Here’s how the Alumio iPaaS incorporates other middleware solutions:

  • The Alumio iPaaS incorporates Message-oriented-Middleware as a core component to provide reliable messaging and queueing capabilities for integrated applications and services.
  • The Alumio iPaaS provides data integration features that inolves implementing ETL (Extract, Transfer, Load) tools for data migration and helping build centralized data lakes for 360-degree insights.
  • The Alumio iPaaS provides API management features such as API gateways and automated monitoring and logging features to detect API conflicts and integration errors.
  • The Alumio iPaaS provides business process management tools such as workflow automation, data transformation, and scheduling features that help automate business processes, significantly reducing manual work and data entry.

In context to future technologies, the Alumio iPaaS provides flexible integration infrastructure to accommodate future development approaches like Composable Commerce. This involves integrating only best-of-breed components instead of complete software solutions. In other words, the Alumio iPaaS supports businesses adopting modular, composable business capabilities that can be easily assembled and reassembled to meet changing business needs.

According to HTF Market Intelligence, the IPaaS Software market size is estimated to increase by USD 3296 Million at a CAGR of 20.6% from 2023 to 2028

The iPaaS as a future-proof middleware solution

The integration flexibility the iPaaS offers as a middleware solution enables modern businesses to go beyond integrating sytems and software applications. Apart from Composable Commerce, it also helps integrate other emerging technologies like conversational and predictive AI technology. For instance, the Alumio iPaaS provides a connector to integrate OpenAI with e-commerce software solutions to improve business automation.

In conclusion, the iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) has emerged as a next-generation middleware solution that combines the strengths of traditional middleware with cloud-based flexibility. And this is what makes it ideal for enterprises to use the iPaaS as a fast, flexible, and future middleware to connect all systems and streamline real-time data exchange across the entire Value Chain.

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