How to choose the right IT integration platform
In an effort to transform isolated applications into a robust, interoperable ecosystem, companies are turning to IT integration platforms. Their main goal is to facilitate the flow of data and processes between different software applications and systems, ensuring their smooth operation.
With the right integration platform in your hands, your IT environment will be faster, more efficient, and better connected. However, finding the best integration platform is no easy task. There are many options available, from scrappy startups to enterprise solutions.
The main factor when choosing a platform is the IT strategy you choose: code, no-code, or low-code. This choice should align with your IT capabilities, resources, and integration requirements.
IT strategy: Code
Code-based integration is the most flexible option when you have skilled developers who can write custom code to handle complex and unique integration scenarios. It’s suitable for organizations with specific technical requirements that can’t be easily achieved through low-code or no-code platform solutions.
When choosing a code-based integration platform, you have to ensure that your IT team has the necessary skills and experience to develop and maintain custom integrations. You also have to be ready for higher development and maintenance costs due to the need for skilled developers.
Here are some examples of code integration platforms:
- Red Hat Integration – a set of integration and messaging technologies that connect applications and data across hybrid infrastructures. It provides service composition and orchestration, application connectivity and data transformation, real-time message streaming, change data capture, and API management. And its cloud-native platform and toolchain can support the full spectrum of modern application development.
- Azure Integration Services – a powerful and versatile platform based on various services from Microsoft’s Azure Cloud platform. With its tools, you can streamline business processes, orchestrate data flows, integrate with internal or external systems, and build scalable APIs.
IT strategy: Low-code
If your organization has moderate technical expertise but not enough to build integrations entirely from scratch, low-code might be an ideal solution.
These platforms provide a visual development environment that allows users to design, build, and manage integrations through a graphical interface, reducing the need for traditional programming.
Low-code integration platforms are particularly useful to streamline integration projects, accelerate development, and make integration tasks more accessible to a wider range of users, including business analysts and non-technical staff.
They may not be as cost-effective as no-code platforms, but still significantly reduce development and maintenance costs compared to purely code-based integrations.
Some popular low-code integration platforms include:
- Boomi – a cloud-based integration platform that offers a low-code environment for designing and managing integrations. It supports a wide range of applications and data sources.
- MuleSoft – a comprehensive low-code integration platform that allows users to connect applications, data, and devices. It offers a range of pre-built connectors and templates for various systems and services.
- Workato – a low-code automation and integration platform that helps businesses connect their apps, automate workflows, and streamline data flow across various systems.
IT strategy: No-code
No-code integration might be a great fit when you have limited technical resources and a desire to empower non-technical business users to build integrations. No-code solutions are generally the most cost-effective option in terms of development and maintenance.
As it requires no or minimal coding, it won’t be suitable for specialized integration scenarios but would be a great solution for less complex integration needs.
Here are some of the no-code platforms you can choose from:
- Zapier – a widely used no-code integration platform that connects a vast array of web applications and automates workflows. It operates on a trigger-action model, allowing users to create “Zaps” to link different apps.
- Make (formerly Integromat) – similar to Zapier, it is a no-code automation and integration platform that lets users build workflows connecting a wide variety of online apps and services.
- Microsoft Power Automate – part of the Microsoft Power Platform, Power Automate (formerly known as Microsoft Flow) is a no-code automation and integration platform tightly integrated with Microsoft services, making it suitable for automating processes within the Microsoft ecosystem.
Note: Low-code and no-code approaches might seem easier to work with. However, even their use should be controlled and not entrusted to anyone without relevant experience. To realize the full potential of no- or low-code, you still need a good specialist on board.
Special focus: Infrastructure & security
To ensure the reliability and safety of your integrated systems and data, you have to pay special attention to the infrastructure and security of your chosen integration platform. Remember that this should be a non-negotiable aspect of your decision to protect your sensitive data and maintain the availability of your systems.
Here are some steps you can take in this direction:
- Consider your organization’s scalability needs. Ensure the integration platform can handle increased data volumes and growing traffic without performance degradation.
- Decide whether you prefer an on-premise integration solution or a cloud-based one. Cloud-based platforms offer scalability, but on-premises solutions provide more control over your infrastructure.
- Determine if your organization operates in a regulated industry (e.g., healthcare, finance) and ensure the integration platform complies with industry-specific regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR).
- Verify that data transmitted and stored by the integration platform is encrypted to protect sensitive information.
- Assess the platform’s ability to implement role-based access controls to restrict who can access, modify, or view integration configurations.
- Ensure that the integration platform offers high availability and disaster recovery options to minimize downtime in case of system failures or other disruptions.
- Verify that the platform supports robust authentication methods, such as Single Sign-On (SSO), and authorization mechanisms to control user access.
- If your integration heavily relies on APIs, ensure that the integration platform offers API security features, including OAuth and API key management.
- Check if the platform has built-in security features such as firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems to protect against unauthorized access and attacks.
Potential barrier: Licensing costs
Your choice of integration platform should align with your budget constraints. It’s not an easy decision, especially when you want all the necessary features and capabilities for your integration projects.
Start from researching and understanding the various licensing models like subscription-based, per-user, per-connection, per-transaction, and usage-based pricing.
Then, establish a clear budget for your integration project. Consider not only the initial license costs but also ongoing subscription or maintenance fees.
Define your integration requirements and objectives. Consider the complexity of your integration scenarios, the number of systems to be connected, and the expected data volume. Different licensing models may be better suited to specific integration needs.
Some platforms also offer tiered pricing that may become more cost-effective as you scale your integration efforts. And some providers even offer volume discounts for higher usage or longer-term commitments. So, it is crucial to evaluate how licensing costs may change as your integration needs grow.
Don’t forget about hidden costs, such as the cost of additional connectors, support fees, or data storage fees. And don’t be afraid to negotiate pricing with the platform provider. Many providers are open to it, especially for larger or long-term contracts.
The choice of integration platform should be tailored to your unique needs and IT strategy. A thorough assessment process will help you accelerate your digital transformation initiatives, drive innovation, and unlock new opportunities for growth and success.
With this transformation, you’ll be able to embark on a path towards your digital future.