Unified API vs embedded iPaaS: a look at their key differences

As you look at 3rd-parties to help scale your product integrations, you’re likely choosing between two types of software: a unified API solution and an embedded integration platform as a service (iPaaS). 

We’ll help you evaluate the two by defining each, outlining their respective pros and cons, and comparing them.


Overview on unified APIs

A unified API is an aggregated API that lets you connect your product to multiple software providers in a specific category, such as a CRM or an HRIS.

Illustration of a unified API

Here are just some of the benefits a unified API platform can provide (note: Merge addresses each of them while other unified API vendors may only address some, if any):

  • Integrations can offer both breadth and depth; each unified API can make a wide range of integrations available, and the integrations allow you to access both standard and custom objects and fields without having to code. Taken together, you’ll be able to bring a high volume of powerful product integrations to market
  • A centralized, intuitive dashboard for monitoring your clients’ integrations; your less technical personnel, such as customer success, can use the dashboard to easily pinpoint specific issues with different integrations, find the steps for resolving them, and then pass on these instructions to the clients who are impacted with little delay
  • A high-quality customer experience; customers can integrate to specific applications without leaving your platform and in just a few clicks. They can also receive alerts on time (from your team) when there are specific issues with an integration—all but ensuring their integrations maintain high standards of performance
  • Robust security controls and standards; data can be encrypted at rest and in transit. In addition, vendors often comply with GDPR and maintain SOC 2 Type II, ISO 27001, and HIPAA certifications

Here are some of the issues you might come across in unified API solutions (note: these don’t apply to Merge):

  • Popular software categories aren’t included; and even when they’re offered, the unified API vendor may not make a comprehensive set of integrations and/or the endpoints you need available
  • Difficult, if not impossible, to access custom objects and fields; as a result, you’ll struggle to address the wide range of integration use cases your customers are after
  • Lack a track record of customer success; this can be applied holistically or to specific industries, company sizes, etc. 
  • Inability to respond to API calls quickly; certain vendors use "manual unified APIs"; essentially, this is when a vendor responds to API calls manually, which inevitably delays their response times and increases the likelihood of human errors

Related: The pros and cons of an embedded workflow tool

Overview on embedded iPaaS solutions

An embedded iPaaS solution is a 3rd-party, cloud-based, integration platform that allows you to embed its platform directly into your product.

A visualization of an embedded iPaaS

Here are, generally speaking, their benefits:

  • Offers pre-built connectors for various software systems; your team can use them to accelerate integration and automation development
  • Allows for a number of deployment options; this applies to both functionality and design. For example, in the case of the former, you can implement integrations on the client’s behalf or allow clients to do so within your product
  • Several established players in the market; you’ll find vendors that work with big-name brands in different industries and regions
  • Adheres to strict data controls and standards; like unified APIs, many vendors will be GDPR-compliant, complete the SOC Type 2 audit every year, encrypt data at rest and in transit, etc.

Here are some of their weaknesses:

  • Requires significant training and technical expertise to use; while these platforms often brand themselves as “low-code,” your more technically-savvy personnel, such as engineers, will need to play a big role in using them
  • Your team is forced to build one integration at a time; couple this with the previous drawback and it’s clear that the platform makes it difficult to scale integrations successfully
  • Lack sandbox accounts for 3rd-party applications; this makes it difficult to develop and test your integrations 
  • Don’t provide category-specific expertise; these platforms are geared towards broad integration use cases

Having trouble making sense of their differences and respective strengths and weaknesses? We’ll provide a concise comparison in the following section.

Related: Unified API vs integration marketplace

Embedded iPaaS versus unified API

The two solutions offer fundamentally different approaches to product integrations. A unified API platform is geared towards helping organizations deliver a high volume of category-specific integrations to market quickly; while an embedded iPaaS is focused on helping organizations deliver one integration at a time. 

Offer best-in-class integrations with Merge

Merge, the leading unified API platform, neatly addresses all of the benefits of unified API platforms while avoiding the aforementioned drawbacks.

Learn how we help thousands of organizations—like Navan, Ramp, and Drata—use product integrations to move upmarket, differentiate their platform, increase customer retention, and more by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts. You can also test drive Merge at your leisure by creating a free account.