This POV will be exploring the definition and concept of an Enterprise Service Bus and the benefits of using one to support business integration.

Introduction

Connecting systems, people, and processes is imperative for businesses today. Across most industries, businesses are wanting to improve the flow of data and information, and there are common significant technical challenges to overcome.

Information is locked up in different applications and systems within different departments resulting in a costly and time-consuming effort to retrieve this data. Alternatively, departments may resort to housing their own versions of the same data, leading to inconsistencies and duplications – again, resulting in costly and time-consuming effort to rectify. This means the enterprise is far from integrated. This is where an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) comes in.

What is an Enterprise Service Bus?

An Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) is part of the business to business (B2B) integration space and has been around for ~20 years. The concept was born out of the need to move away from point-to-point integration – the connection between two applications. As the number of applications grow, infrastructures become prone to failure and difficult to maintain if kept in a point-to-point model.

An ESB is an integration platform that applications use to talk to each other in a standardised way, whether that be on another computer, operating system, or in different programming languages [1].

Think of an extension lead with plug sockets. Each application can be plugged in to add another component to an ESB. They become connected once ‘plugged in’ and data can be integrated and flow between.

Enterprise Service Bus graphic, Extension Lead

The core concept of an ESB is integrating different applications by putting the bus between them to communicate with each other, giving the user a single point of access. ESBs use business logic, processing, routing, security, transformation, and auditing software to integrate different applications. So, instead of having different services everywhere, it is all on the ESB. If you need any information you connect to the bus, and it will arrive in the right place in the right way.

Essentially, the software applications simply connect – or talk – to the ESB, which transforms the data formats, routes messages, and transforms protocols to execute the request from an application on the bus. The principle of an ESB is to make the integration process as simple as possible and improve business functionality.

The applications above the ESB typically need data, those below it has the data (but some are both). An example would be a website hosting a shop and a database that stores sales and product records. The ESB sits in the middle of the website and the database. Programs can be placed on the ESB to monitor stock levels across different databases and notify different applications on the bus when stock changes, creating a consistent, clear flow of information.

Enterprise Service Bus, Website and Database

What are the benefits of using an ESB?

ESBs have the responsibility of managing the messaging that allows different software to communicate effectively. This means that one command can be given, and it is executed across the bus. Thus, developers can focus on other areas, saving time and cost.

Having an ESB means having a single point of access, so businesses only need to look for services in one location. By connecting clients and services via an ESB, and only having to look at this one location, businesses can expect to increase efficiency and productivity. So instead of having eight tasks done in different applications to enter data, the ESB turns this into one task.

Another benefit of using an ESB is the centralised management. The ESB provides a focal point of control that allows integration policies, rules, and processes to be managed and enforced consistently across a business. Again, meaning an increase in efficiency.

The ESB’s approach to integration allows developers to spend less time integrating and more time focusing on improvements and delivery of applications. The approach is also easier to maintain for a team of specialists, as they can be tasked to do high value work without needing to do eight tasks, but just one.

ESBs also benefit businesses through its reusable code. They allow integration components to be reused across different applications and services. This will improve productivity and efficiency of integration as there will no longer be a need to create custom code for every integration, meaning staff time and effort spent developing integrations will decrease alongside the cost.

Loose coupling is a technique that allows software to be linked but not dependent on each other. The technique allows an ESB to become flexible. This means the ESB can support an infinite number of user interfaces [2]. Additionally, this flexibility means any upgrades, location changes or any other changes can be done with minimal impact overall.

Conclusion

In summary, the ESB provides a layer that allows applications to call and use each other’s service in a simplistic way. It provides the crucial software to enhance how information is distributed to different types of applications across many locations and does this by communicating and translating messages   in a predictable and manageable way.

With the increase of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications like CRMs and others, there is a necessity to integrate for a clear view of data and the creation of a single source of truth. Using an ESB will ensure that all these tools communicate with each other to drive your business forward.

Responsiv

Responsiv Cloud Connectivity Platform and Responsiv Cloud Automation Platform are based on industry leading technologies including IBM ACE, IBM BAW, and IBM MQ. These cloud platforms provide your business with integration and process automation capabilities as a managed service, meaning fewer in-house technical skills are required to maintain your cloud applications.

Get in touch today to find out how Responsiv can help you create an ESB to improve your business integrations and efficiency.

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    References

    [1] Hurwitz, J., Bloor, R., Kaufman, M., Halper, F., Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies (Hoboken: Wiley Publishers, 2009) p.148

    [2] Hurwitz, J., Bloor, R., Kaufman, M., Halper, F., Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies (Hoboken: Wiley Publishers, 2009) p.160

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