2005 -- The Rise of ESBs

Five or six years ago, it seemed like there was finally a solution to the types of integration problems that had rapidly begun to plague companies—enterprise application integration or EAI products. By offering a centralized solution to connect to, transform, and exchange data and transactions across heterogeneous systems, organizations could string together integrated business processes that crossed business applications and business boundaries.

But how times have changed. It’s not that EAI products didn’t solve the problem—they did and will they will continue to. It’s just that the problem has continued to grow—if not specifically in complexity (although it has grown in complexity) at least in velocity and breadth. Not only are companies facing an increasing rate of change within their markets, but the trend towards outsourcing has increased pressure on corporate margins and required even greater integration capabilities. In addition, new regulatory requirements have driven the need for broader integration and higher levels of change and the ability to audit processes across multiple systems. In addition, the focus for many integration projects have moved away from complete, top-down enterprise-wide initiatives towards line-of-business driven projects focused on very specific initiatives.

As we explored my last column these growth of integration needs over the past few years has resulted in a rapidly accelerating move towards different types of integration solutions, and more specifically, enterprise service bus (ESB) approach.

While there are multiple definitions of what enterprise service buses are (or aren’t), perhaps the easiest way to think of them is as a way to enable standards-based integration in an service-oriented architecture (SOA) environment. Or, you can think of them as essentially a web services-capable middleware infrastructure that supports communication among application components and mediates application interactions.

At the high level, the core functionality of an enterprise service bus includes the ability to connect resources (via adapters or specific communication protocols), mediate communication among services (perhaps through routing, mapping or transformations), coordinate or orchestrate processes (specifying what service is invoked when) and managing (such as security of quality of services). The result, for many companies, is a more flexible approach to application integration.

Keep in mind that ESBs are certainly not for every type of integration solution or need—there are still many solid traditional integration alternatives such as WebSphere MQ or old-style EAI solutions. For example, ESBs may not be required if an organization has stable business requirements and a low rate of change, smaller applications with limited services, limited throughput and latency requirements or if the organizations has already standardized on a platform or integration vendor. However, ESBs can be particularly helpful in a variety of other deployment scenarios, including: the integration of larger applications with multiple services or event types, situations where an organization has frequent changes in business requirements or the need for high levels of business agility, the need to integrate across applications or services from multiple providers, or a tops-down strategy to move to an SOA-based architecture.

While business and IT requirements have been evolving over the past few years, so has the technology landscape. Last year, the ESB landscape was primarily composed of a select number of focused vendors that developed SOA-oriented ESBs. Larger, entrenched platform and integration vendors frequently either ignored the ESB market or derided its value.

But over the past year, things have changed. Throughout 2005, we’ve seen a progression of ESB-related announcements and developments. For example, about halfway through 2005 we started to see some interest and investment in open source ESB’s, with IONA’s announcement of the Celtix (now ObjectWeb) and the open source Synapse framework in August. Also in August BEA announced it’s AquaLogic Service Bus, and then in September, IBM unveiled new SOA offerings and its new, lightweight ESB solution WebSphere ESB. Sprinkled before, after, and in-between were a large number of other ESB-related announcements.

Over the course of the last year, we’ve basically gone from a situation where ESB technologies were pretty much limited to a small set of specialist companies to a situation where many of the leading integration and platform companies have now announced ESB products or strategies, and we even have a number of open source ESB initiatives. Over all, it’s a lot of activity and pretty impressive development for a market that was very limited two years ago. Although no one knows the future for sure, I’m betting we’re going to see even more significant activity in the ESB market in 2006.

About the Author

David Kelly - With twenty years at the cutting edge of enterprise infrastructure, David A. Kelly is ebizQ's Community Manager for Optimizing Business/IT Management. This category includes IT governance, SOA governance,and compliance, risk management, ITIL, business service management,registries and more.

As Community Manager, David will blog and podcast to keep the ebizQ community fully informed on all the important news and breakthroughs relevant to enterprise governance. David will also be responsible for publishing press releases, taking briefings, and overseeing vendor submitted feature articles to run on ebizQ. In addition, each week, David will compile the week's most important news and views in a newsletter emailed out to ebizQ's ever-growing Governance community. David Kelly is ideally suited to be ebizQ's Governing the Infrastructure Community Manager as he has been involved with application development, project management, and product development for over twenty years. As a technology and business analyst, David has been researching, writing and speaking on governance-related topics for over a decade.

David is an expert in Web services, application development, and enterprise infrastructures. As the former Senior VP of Analyst Services at Hurwitz Group, he has extensive experience in translating the implications of new application development, deployment, and management technologies into practical recommendations for enterprise customers. He's written articles for Computerworld, Software Magazine, the New York Times, and other publications, and spoken at conferences such as Comdex, Software Development, and Internet World. With expertise ranging from application development to enterprise management to integration/B2B services to IP networking and VPNs, Kelly can help companies profit from the diversity of a changing technology landscape.

More by David A. Kelly

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