How an ESB Simplifies Application Integration

Historically, enterprise application integration (EAI) has been difficult because of the challenges associated with point-to-point integration (P2P). Enterprise application integration is the process of connecting every system and application across an enterprise architecture so they can work together.

A commonly used application integration method, point-to-point integration (P2P), is incredibly rigid and time consuming to maintain. Today, innovative organisations are embracing the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) because it addresses all the headaches, roadblocks, and error that stems from the P2P integration style, and makes application integration headaches a thing of the past.

Today, enterprises can address any application integration issue using an ESB that acts as middleware for everything on the network. The ESB software is the shared central infrastructure that acts as a point of connectivity for every application, device, or system across the enterprise.

At the heart of the ESB: the services

Typically, the way in which applications integrate and expose their capabilities to the enterprise service bus is through “services,” and these are usually, but not necessarily, web services. The concept behind an ESB is that an application exposes its capabilities through service enablement into a set of more usable services. The ESB software then publishes the services to the registry and makes them available for consumption.

As the applications expose one or more services of their capabilities through the ESB, consumers can interact with those applications knowing very little about what an application is. They don't need to know the technical architecture, the version, or the actual vendor of the solution. All they need to consume is a service and then adhere to the contractual interface of integration.

Service flow through an ESB

Here are two common ways an ESB can simplify application integration:

  1. Service consumption — For example, a web front end might consume services from an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Effectively what the web front end does is tap into the ERP service interface at the ESB — and it is not interacting directly with the ERP. That means, should the ERP system make any revision, or even change its physical location, the consumer will not notice if the service contract based to the capabilities of the ERP are maintained.
  2. Service hierarchies — Similarly, service hierarchies can be built up within an ESB to deliver a unit of functionality that is more applicable to the consumer. The hierarchies might consist of base-level application services, as well as higher-level business services, which typically orchestrate one or more services in the ESB tool to deliver something of interest and benefit to the business side of the consumption patterns

Why you need to make the move to an ESB

The limitations that are associated with P2P integration, and often hinder an enterprise’s growth, are often alleviated with an ESB. The ESB style of enterprise application integration makes integrating a wide variety of applications and systems faster and easier — promoting progress and welcoming change.

The flexibility of an ESB tool is a critical benefit. Upgrading application versions, changing locations — any fluctuation at any point on the network is no problem with an ESB. When applications are abstracted as sub-services, as they are on the ESB, changes can be made with minimal impact.

ESBs also support orchestration. This is the ability to coordinate capabilities between applications using a technical level of orchestration. Typically this is called routing or mediation, or orchestration of business level, which is driven by Business Process Management (BPM). Either way, it is how an ESB engages to deliver compound capabilities to either technical infrastructure consumers or business consumers via BPM.

ESB software also accelerates the way in which integration can be deployed and delivered. This is achieved by its support of a wide variety of standard integration patterns out the box, simplifying and accelerating the construction of elements like common integration patterns, synchronisation propagation, and recipient list.

Another way an ESB tool benefits organisations is through its generation of optimised, high quality, and reusable code. Because an ESB leverages pre-built connectors and components, a wider variety of applications can be connected more quickly, eliminating hand-coding to make the integration, once again saving developers’ time, and freeing them up to work on other valuable initiatives.

ESBs move fast. If business users say they can’t wait for information, and they need it in real-time, that’s a tell-tale sign that it is time to consider the ESB. The real-time, event-based environment that only an ESB can support will move an organisation light years ahead in terms of capability and flexibility, in comparison to a batch-based processing environment.

Give the ESB a try

The enterprise application integration benefits of the ESB are clear, and will become crystal-clear with first-hand exploration. Talend Open Studio for ESB is a free ESB tool based on extensible open source technology. The Talend Open Studio for ESB makes it easy to service-enable applications and legacy systems to build a powerful service-oriented architecture.

Ready to get started with Talend?