Embedded iPaaS: what it is, examples, and pros and cons
As you look to implement customer-facing integrations to further differentiate your product and improve the customer experience, you might initially begin by implementing native integrations. That is, by relying on your in-house engineers to build and maintain the integrations.
While this approach may work initially, the work of adding new integrations and maintaining existing ones will eventually overwhelm your engineers and prevent them from focusing elsewhere.
To that end, you can look to 3rd-party integration providers for help; more specifically, you can evaluate embedded integration platform as a service (iPaaS) vendors.
To help you figure out whether an embedded iPaaS is the right approach for building product integrations at your organization, we’ll break down how the solution works, popular vendors in the space, its benefits and drawbacks, and compare it to other categories of integration tools.
What is an embedded iPaaS
It’s a 3rd-party solution that lets you build and maintain product integrations. You can let customers develop and deliver the integrations, implement them on their behalf, or adopt a combination of both approaches. In addition, you may be able to avoid associating the integrations with the vendor.
Embedded iPaaS vs iPaaS
An embedded iPaaS and iPaaS serve different use cases. An iPaaS, such as Workato, enables a company to link different applications or services they use internally for daily operations (such as syncing contacts between Hubspot and Salesforce).
An embedded iPaaS enables companies to build and maintain customer-facing integrations between their own product and other applications. These integrations allow end users to easily link and move data between their chosen third-party application and your product.
In short, an embedded iPaaS is used to offer customer-facing integrations while an iPaaS is for internal integrations.
Embedded iPaaS features
As you review different embedded iPaaS solutions, you’ll likely notice specific features they have in common. These include:
Pre-built application connectors
To help accelerate integration development, most vendors provide out-of-the-box connectors with popular applications in different categories.
For CRM, this can be connectors for Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot, SugarCRM; for file storage, they often offer connectors for Dropbox, Box, Google Drive; for HRIS, the list includes Workday, Namely, BambooHR—and so on.
Pre-built automation templates
On top of the pre-built app connectors, the vendors often provide pre-configured automations that you can either adopt as-is or customize to your needs. This can be for simple data syncs (e.g. syncing clients between your CRM and ERP system) as well as apply to more complex processes, like lead routing.
Integration management and analytics
Many providers offer out-of-the-box dashboards that let you track a number of important data points for your accounts. For example, for each account, you can see the specific integrations they’ve built, the number of integrations they’ve built, the number of errors they’re getting across their integrations, among other metrics, over a specific time period (e.g. 30 days).
Examples of embedded iPaaS
Like any competitive market, embedded iPaaS is filled with a number of vendors.
Many vendors—like Tray.io and Workato—provide both an embedded and a “direct” component of their solution, while other companies offer embedded integrations exclusively. The latter are typically smaller companies with fewer resources to specialize in several areas.
Finally, embedded iPaaS solutions will, in a few cases, focus on specific industries. For instance, Alloy Automation has historically focused on commerce (although they’re now starting to branch out).
Let’s take a closer look at some of the popular embedded iPaaS vendors.
Workato offers both an embedded iPaaS and an iPaaS. The latter is their core offering as they went to market first with an iPaaS before building their embedded iPaaS product.
Workato Embedded is a “low-code” tool (non-developers may still have a hard time using it) that has an extensive offering of pre-built integration connectors across various categories and verticals. Workato Embedded, however, requires customers to build each customer-facing integration bespoke, making it time and resource-intensive to integrate at scale.
In addition, the platform doesn’t use a standard data model, meaning that for each integration, customers need to transform and normalize the data. This requires figuring out the logic to apply in every workflow for each integration’s unique data schema.
Similar to Workato, Tray.io offers both an embedded iPaaS and an iPaaS product. The latter is their core offering as they also started with iPaaS before building out their embedded iPaaS product. Tray.io offers a large number of integration connectors and has a service where customers can request and pay for new connectors to be built.
As with all embedded iPaaS products, Tray.io requires customers to build these integrations one by one, which naturally makes it difficult to build many integrations in a short timeframe. There are also challenges in troubleshooting workflows within Tray.io as the platform hasn’t invested in building robust monitoring features. Additionally, many of the implementation details and processes require workarounds to achieve since a lot of Tray.io’s embedded iPaaS features were built off their core product.
Cyclr is a relatively new embedded iPaaS solution. Like its rivals, it offers templates to easily design a new integration flow without needing to write complex code.
That said, despite branding themselves as a low-code solution, it still has a steep learning curve. There's also no direct access and visibility to the system sending API requests, making it challenging to monitor and debug errors. And, as with all embedded iPaaS products, each customer-facing integration needs to be built individually through their tooling.
Paragon, like Cyclr, only offers an embedded iPaaS solution. Paragon offers more robust monitoring features, such as event and failure alerts and logs. Paragon also allows customers to access the full underlying API, making the product more developer-friendly.
However, the platform has fewer connectors readily available, forcing customers to use the platform’s tooling to create their own integrations from scratch if required.
Benefits of embedded iPaaS
Now that you know what an embedded iPaaS is, what it typically offers, and the types of solutions you might come across, you can probably guess the benefits it provides. In case any slip your mind, here are a few of the top ones to highlight:
- Enables developers to avoid a lot of the work involved in implementing and maintaining integrations
- Lets you improve key business metrics, such as your close rate, client retention rate, and the percent of clients you upsell
- Offers flexible deployment options that can help meet your go-to-market needs
- Provides various security controls (e.g. role-based access functionality) and typically complies with key security auditing standards and regulations, such as SOC 2 Type II and GDPR
Drawbacks of embedded iPaaS
Unfortunately, embedded iPaaS solutions aren’t without their weaknesses. Here are a few to consider:
- Still requires a certain level of technical expertise to use the platform. In other words, while the platforms might brand themselves as “low-code”, they often require a substantial amount of coding. This naturally forces developers to be heavily involved in the process of both building and maintaining integrations
- They force you to build a single integration at a time. And given the issue described above, this can make it hard to scale your integrations over time
- While embedded iPaaS solutions offer some maintenance capabilities, they often fall short of what your teams and clients need to quickly and accurately diagnose and resolve integration issues
- Many iPaaS vendors with both a direct and embedded solution allocate the majority of their developer resources to the former. This ultimately makes it harder for the vendor to fix issues in their embedded offering as well as enhance it at the pace you might expect
Embedded iPaaS vs other 3rd-party integration solutions
You don’t simply have to choose between an embedded iPaaS and native integrations.
You can also consider unified API platforms and integration marketplace as a service (iMaaS) solutions before making a final decision.
Here’s a closer look at how embedded iPaaS solutions compare to each of these other types of tools.
Embedded iPaaS vs integration marketplace as a service
An iMaaS, such as Pandium, lets you design, deliver, and maintain integration marketplaces to your site and/or application in the hopes of helping clients find and implement product integrations more easily.
They also offer similar integration capabilities as an embedded iPaaS, but they may not be as comprehensive. For instance, they likely offer fewer pre-built application connectors.
Embedded iPaaS vs unified API
A unified API, or universal API, solution lets you integrate with multiple applications in a given software category simply by building to a single API.
It neatly addresses many of the drawbacks of embedded iPaaS solutions, such as scaling integrations quickly and in a way that's resource efficient. That said, unified API solutions differ from one another in several notable ways—from the software categories they support to the industries they specialize in.
Merge, the leading Unified API platform, can address all your integration requirements by allowing you to offer hundreds of integrations across CRM, HRIS, file storage, accounting platforms, and more. The platform also provides advanced features to help you access data that falls outside of its common models, such as field mapping; and it offers comprehensive integration management capabilities so that your team can track and address integration issues with minimal friction.
Learn more about Merge by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.