by CData Arc Marketing | January 14, 2020

Modern ESBs: Pros & Cons

As you adopt applications, including CRM, ERP, and accounting systems, you need to integrate these tools to gain a complete view of your customers and deliver the level of service they expect.

An enterprise service bus (ESB) has long been one way to get all your solutions to talk to each other. First coined by Gartner in 2002, the term ESB describes an architecture that integrates numerous applications by putting a centrally controlled integration hub, often called a communication bus, between them and having each application talk to the bus. This software eliminates the need for brittle, point-to-point integrations, enabling applications to more easily communicate with each system on the bus.

Organizations typically adopt an ESB to increase organizational agility and reduce time-to-market for new business initiatives by integrating them with existing systems in a scalable, plug and play manner.

But many ESBs are hobbled by aging technology. In this article, we cover the advantages and disadvantages of ESBs, how modern ESB technologies address the downsides of older solutions, and which features to look for in a modern ESB.

Traditional ESB Advantages

Flexible Integration

Many applications include built-in integrations. For example, Dynamics CRM might include a direct integration to Dynamics GP. But your organization may need additional integrations not natively included by the vendor. Moreover, you may need capabilities above and beyond what comes in the out-of-the-box integration. ESBs connect many systems and are customizable to support unique scenarios for each user.

Centralized Management

Many organizations have different teams that build different processes and integrations. Tracking down errors in these widely distributed systems can be difficult. An ESB incorporates connections to many applications and enables you to troubleshoot issues using centralized dashboards. As a result, you can have one team responsible and one place to address any problems.

Connectivity without Custom Coding

Previously, organizations were required to develop individual, point-to-point integrations. With an ESB, you no longer have to write custom code for every integration. You simply configure the connection to the ESB, which abstracts the integration, taking care of the connectivity details for you.

Disadvantages of Traditional ESBs

Legacy ESBs have also had their share of disadvantages. Fortunately, modern ESB solutions alleviate these earlier weaknesses.

Bottlenecks

While ESBs centralize connectivity and management, having a single centralized team can become a bottleneck. If one team uses a single system for all integrations, your organization can experience traffic jams when you need to complete a large number of projects or track down a number of issues. These issues are difficult to address with traditional, heavily weighed down ESBs that require an army to set up.

How Modern ESBs Address Bottlenecks

In contrast, modern ESBs are lightweight, easy to use, and even run in containers. That means you get all the benefits of a central platform, with none of the logjams.

Instead, you can easily segment and distribute your ESB architecture, enabling different teams to perform their own integrations to rapidly accelerate projects. Going a step further, because modern ESBs are so flexible and easy to use, they also support cross-training to build nimble teams. For example, if your EDI team uses the same solution as your enterprise integration team, you can flexibly shift IT members between EDI and integration projects as needed, further accelerating integrations.

Need for Experienced Developers

ESBs have traditionally been difficult to set up, configure, and manage. For example, effectively using one commonly entrenched legacy ESB requires an astounding 3-5 years of technical experience.

How Modern ESBs Address Complexity

Modern ESBs are built for ease, with user-friendly, visual UIs and prepackaged integrations you can simply drag-and-drop into place. While some programming may be necessary for advanced cases, such as complex EDI flows, modern ESBs require far less specialized knowledge than the traditional ESB does.

Risk of Regression

While ESBs provide one centrally managed application to handle multiple integrations, any changes or updates can introduce a regression, or single point of failure, that breaks other processes.

How Modern ESBs Address Regression

Many modern ESBs have the flexibility to leverage a distributed architecture based on microservices, in which different components of the integration run as different instances in containers. As a result, changes in one part of the system no longer impact other areas of the system, reducing risk. No more cascading failures taking down a whole system from a single problem connection.

Inflexible Deployment

Traditional ESBs were exclusively heavyweight, on-premise applications.

How Modern ESBs Address Deployment

Modern ESBs give you a choice of deployment options — on-premise, cloud, hosted, and hybrid cloud.

What Does a Modern ESB Look Like?

When choosing a modern ESB Solution, look for the following capabilities:

  • Connectors — Bundled connectors are reusable building blocks for creating data flows through the bus, making it easier to connect one system to another.
  • Message Transformation — The solution should input messages and transform them from one format to another, for instance, between CSV, REST, EDI X12, EDIFACT, and JSON formats.
  • Monitoring — The solution should monitor data flows so you can easily identify any problems.
  • Orchestration — Orchestration takes several steps in a workflow and transforms them into a single, reusable service.
  • High-Speed File Transfer — Connectors should rapidly transport messages between locations.
  • Message Bus or Routing — Routing defines the path messages take through the system.
  • Security — Security protections should include secure user authentication, certificate management, secure file transfer, encryption, secure access, access through a DMZ, and more.
  • Exception Handling — The ESB should handle communication and transactional errors.
  • Reusability — You should be able to easily reuse integration flows and use them as customizable templates for future workflows.
  • Central Configuration — You should be able to tweak settings through the tool instead of coding.
  • User Experience — The solution should provide an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.
  • High Availability — It should offer high availability and load balancing options so you can scale.

With a modern ESB, you can gain the advantages of flexible integration, centralized management, and abstracted connectivity — without the traditional risks due to complexity, bottlenecks, and regression.

Modern ESB, Seamless Integration

CData Arc provides all the benefits of a state-of-the-art ESB, at an affordable cost that includes accessible options for unlimited MFT and EDI connections. All backed by industry-leading support.

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