What is Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)?

October 27, 2021

When businesses began adding multiple applications to their systems, they needed to perform point-to-point integrations to connect apps so they could effectively work together. Manual, point-to-point integrations are impossible to scale, break easily, and require time and resources to maintain — this slows the business down and limits the speed it can go to market. To address this, businesses started using a middleware tool called enterprise service bus (ESB) to provide a centralized way to manage integrations and scale.

What is enterprise service bus?

An ESB is an architecture designed to integrate multiple apps together via a communication bus that sits between them and lets each app talk to the bus. This enables apps to work independently from each other, but still communicate through the bus. An ESB handles data transformation, connectivity, message routing, communication protocol conversions — and makes these integrations available as a web services interface to be used by new applications. Multiple apps can be integrated to the bus and IT manages the bus, rather than using and managing point-to-point integrations between every single app.ESB architecture became the next evolution of integration designed to help orgs scale, centrally manage integrations, and facilitate a better user experience.

ESB is an SOA component

The enterprise service bus is part of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) which uses web services (standard interfaces) to make services reusable without having to duplicate them every time they’re used with new applications. Apps behind the web services can be written in any programming language (like Java, Cobol, Microsoft .Net; supplied by SaaS applications, by a vendor like SAP that offers packaged enterprise applications, or through open source.

Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) (based on xml) defines the service interface, which is exposed using SOAP/HTTP or JSON/HTTP. Service lifecycles are governed and placed in a registry where developers can find them and reuse them for business processes or new apps. It’s ESB’s reusability that helps businesses scale their integrations far beyond the capacities of point-by-point integrations.

The benefits of using an ESBenterprise service bus

Most businesses have a mix of on-premises, legacy systems and cloud apps in their hybrid environment. An ESB makes connections using an adapter or connector, or the new software application’s API. The ESB handles various data formats, does the work of data transformation and routing — enabling application integration and making it easier to scale as more apps are added. It eliminates the need for point-to-point integrations and the cost, time, and risk involved with them. Here’s an example of how UCLA is using their ESB.

Is an ESB good enough for the modern enterprise? 

ESBs provide interoperability and support application integration and data integration. Developers spend less time on integration, freeing them to focus on innovation. However, today’s enterprises often find that ESBs still do not provide the speed and stability needed in an always-on environment. Changing integrations in an ESB can destabilize others, and ESB middleware updates have to be tested to ensure they won’t impact existing integrations. ESBs are centrally managed which means IT still has to take integration requests and this can lead to long wait times before integrations are made and workflows are improved. It’s also costly to implement disaster recovery and high availability for ESB servers. Many enterprises have found that, as an integration solution, ESBs do not support the automation, scalability, and speed they need to compete in a digital age.

The iPaaS is the next wave of integration

As a result, they are turning to integration platforms, specifically, integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS), to further simplify and significantly scale the integration process. An iPaaS automates the integration process itself, with an easy user interface and a catalog of pre-made connectors to the most commonly used business applications and systems. Integrations can be created within minutes, rather than weeks or months. It also eliminates the need for specialized integration expertise. Anyone authorized to do so may quickly create integrations in real-time, when and where they’re needed to improve business workflows, outcomes, and end-user experiences.

With an iPaaS in place, businesses are able to realize their modernization initiatives, including faster go-to-market and faster automation. Further, an iPaaS is self-updating and eliminates the concern that changes will disrupt or break existing integrations. It offers high availability, cloud computing robustness and disaster recovery, and lowers the costs of integration work.

Learn what Gartner has to say about the SnapLogic iPaaS.

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