April 19, 2023

5 minutes read

Understanding ETL vs iPaaS – A Faster Path to Digital Transformation


Andrew Graf

Understanding ETL vs. iPaaS – A Faster Path to Digital Transformation

On average, companies say they have more than 185 point-to-point solutions in use on any given day, and that number has grown exponentially in just the last year. As companies work to address enterprise integration backlogs and free up valuable resources, they are turning to tools that aim to simplify the process. Historically IT teams were left to manage with APIs, extract, transfer, load (ETL) tools and a slew of scripts. However, iPaaS, or integration platform as a service, is now emerging as a new way forward.

ETL Offers Basic Data Extract & Load as a Utility

ETL is a tool that’s been around for a while – it extracts, transforms, and loads data from one or many sources into a single data repository, like a data warehouse. With ETL you have a three-step, batch-driven process that goes like this:

  1. Extract data from many systems – both first- and third-party data.
  2. Clean and standardize the data in the format preferred by the business.
  3. Load the transformed data into a data warehouse where it can be accessed by business and IT teams.

With this three-step process, you can end up with a centralized source of data that is clean and consistent. But ETL is not without its faults. In fact, most ETL tools are legacy products that can perform some data integration tasks but often fail to integrate with modern SaaS applications. ETL also does not offer automation or workflow – it is simply used for batch, mass data extraction and loading.

In addition, ETL tools take a lot of heavy lifting to set up and launch into production. And when you’re already dealing with a large data and system integration backlog and limited resources, ETL can bog you down further. ETL pipelines can also be difficult to maintain and modify and often require additional technical resources to manage as a company scales. For all of these reasons, companies are now investing in iPaaS. In a recent market study with IDG, 27% of the companies say they have already deployed an iPaaS platform, and another 66% will do the same in the next 24 months.

Companies Struggling with Data Integration and Workflow Automation Find Success with iPaaS

iPaaS is a modern enterprise integration and automation tool that’s been gaining popularity due to its ease of use. iPaaS stands for Integration Platform as a Service. It is a cloud-based platform that provides a set of tools and services for integrating applications and data in the cloud and on-premises. iPaaS offers a wide range of integration capabilities, including data integration, application integration, and API management. It provides a more comprehensive and flexible integration solution compared to traditional ETL, which is mainly focused on data integration.

iPaaS is purpose-built for high scalability, low total cost of ownership, flexibility and speed of deployment. Because of this, it’s an attractive choice for many organizations. In addition, some iPaaS tools offer drag-and-drop functionality for building workflows and integrations – meaning you don’t need coding or IT resources to implement and roll out.

iPaaS can connect to any system that has an API and is flexible enough to be able to grow with an organization. In addition, the suite of modern API management capabilities, security and governance features, simple user interfaces and team collaboration features will empower your lines of business to build their own integrations without needing support from enterprise systems teams.

By using iPaaS to standardize enterprise integration in a single platform with automated workflow-building capabilities, you can count on the following benefits:

  • Better security and control over data, as well as better data security.
  • Cut down or eliminate your integration backlog.
  • Support easy-to-use workflow building for both developers and non-developers.
  • Quickly add new integrations without impacting existing workflows.
  • Better visibility into line of business integration activity.
  • You can easily add automation to your integrations.
  • Save time and resources, and reduce the burden on IT teams.

One key difference between ETL and iPaaS is their approach to integration. ETL is a batch-oriented process that runs on a schedule, while iPaaS provides real-time integration capabilities that enable data to flow between applications and systems in real time.

Additionally, ETL is typically used for integrating data between structured databases, while iPaaS supports a wider range of integration scenarios, including connecting cloud-based applications, APIs, and IoT devices.

For organizations that want to operate with flexibility and empower technical resources throughout their organization, iPaaS is a great tool that comes with little technical debt.

If you want to hear from organizations that have made the switch to iPaaS check out:

To learn more about iPaaS and get tips for evaluation vendors read our latest eBook: iPaaS Buyer’s Guide

Andrew Graf

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