by • October 10, 2023
An ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) allows you to integrate the disparate applications and services that run your organization. In this article, we take a closer look at what an ESB is and what alternatives exist. By connecting all these components through an ESB, you eliminate the labor-intensive task of custom-coding messy, point-to-point integrations. In this way, an ESB provides a safe, fast, and reliable backbone to your IT infrastructure.
However, it’s important to remember that an ESB is not the only app integration solution. There are certain circumstances where an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) can serve as a less expensive, easier-to-use ESB alternative.
In this guide, we’ll help you understand what ESB technology is, when you should use it, and when you should consider an iPaaS solution instead. We’ll also review the three most popular ESB/iPaaS solutions on the market today.
Here’s the key things to know about ESB and its alternatives:
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Before ESBs, businesses used to struggle with custom-coded, point-to-point application integrations. These point-to-point integrations resulted in messy “spaghetti code” and too-difficult-to-untangle application dependencies. Today, an ESB eliminates these challenges by serving as a stable communications bus between applications.
The ESB achieves this through a host of pre-built software adapters, which create a “pluggable” app integration solution — one that facilitates new application integrations, system upgrades, and business growth. Another benefit of ESBs is their speed, which is fast enough to support real-time data integrations.
A typical ESB features the following components and characteristics:
Here are the most important use cases for an ESB:
Here are the use cases when you shouldn’t use an ESB:
An iPaaS (Integration Platform-as-a-Service) is an app integration solution that can complement or replace an ESB when integrating cloud-based platforms, web applications, mobile apps, IoT devices, and more. When an iPaaS is appropriate for your use case, you’ll benefit from the following advantages:
Here are the main use cases for iPaaS:
DreamFactory is an open-source iPaaS solution — that runs on-premises or in the cloud. The platform was created to solve a very specific problem: How do you expose data from your web and cloud-based applications and data sources in the easiest, fastest, and most secure way possible? In achieving this goal, DreamFactory can automatically generate REST APIs to expose your data in just three minutes. Best of all, you don’t need any special training or technical experience to use it.
Noteworthy features of DreamFactory include:
In terms of data security and compliance, DreamFactory offers:
Although DreamFactory is free and open-source, it includes three paid tiers (Basic, Professional, and Enterprise), which offer 24-hour tech support and additional pre-built connectors. DreamFactory’s most popular out-of-the-box connectors include:
Finally, DreamFactory offers custom contracts to ensure you only pay for the features you need. As a result, DreamFactory costs magnitudes less than the MuleSoft and IBM ESB solutions highlighted below.
MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform is a hybrid ESB/iPaaS solution for connecting and integrating your network of on-premises or cloud-based apps, data, and IoT devices. This platform gives developers the opportunity to rapidly add new applications. They can do this with any type of application, even if it uses a different type of technology. It’s possible to unite everything from JDBC, JMS, Web Services, HTTP, and others.
Although MuleSoft is a feature-rich platform, it comes with a steep learning curve. Any developer interested in using it will require extensive training and coding experience — something that isn’t required with an iPaaS solution like DreamFactory, which allows you to instantly generate REST APIs through a no-code interface.
Finally, MuleSoft is expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (and sometimes millions) to operate. In some situations, these costs may be worth it if you need to support older messaging standards, legacy on-premises systems, cloud-based applications, or integrate a complex enterprise IT infrastructure.
IBM App Connect is another option when it comes to a hybrid ESB/iPaaS. The platform is somewhat similar to the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform. As a hybrid integration platform, IBM App Connect offers instant connections for applications, data, legacy systems, cloud-based platforms, and IoT devices. While it lets users create REST APIs, the process requires extensive manual coding. Developers will need to have a thorough understanding of the platform in order to use it. Finally, IBM App Connect features a variety of integration styles, like real-time, event-based, and scheduled batch data copy/synchronization. It also offers pre-created application connectors.
Like the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform, IBM App Connect represents a considerable financial and training investment before you can take advantage of its wide range of capabilities. If needed, the capabilities of this platform more than pay for themselves, but when they’re not necessary, consider whether a less expensive iPaaS platform can meet your app integration needs.
When it comes to deciding between an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) and an iPaaS (Integration Platform-as-a-Service), a few important factors come into play. Here’s a straightforward look at what you need to consider:
Choosing between ESB and iPaaS isn’t one-size-fits-all. It depends on your specific situation and goals. So, take a moment to weigh these factors before making your decision.
ESBs — such as MuleSoft Anypoint and IBM App Connect — can provide stable application integrations while serving as a “pluggable” backbone to your IT infrastructure. Nevertheless, if you’re integrating cloud-based applications, mobile apps, IoT devices, or web dashboards, iPaaS technology could offer an easier and less expensive solution. Also, the fact that an advanced iPaaS like DreamFactory can instantly generate REST APIs without any coding at all is a distinct advantage.
Ultimately, from the perspectives of cost, time-to-market, ease of use, and required skill level, DreamFactory presents a compelling ESB alternative that could serve many of your application integration needs.
Certainly! Here’s an FAQ section for the article:
An ESB, or Enterprise Service Bus, is a software architecture that facilitates communication and integration between different applications within an organization. It works by acting as a central messaging system, allowing various applications to communicate, share data, and execute processes in a standardized way.
The main components of an ESB typically include a messaging server, canonical messaging format, software adapters, and a stateless server. These components work together to ensure seamless communication and data exchange between applications.
You should consider using an ESB when integrating more than two services or applications, integrating an external service platform, transforming and integrating multiple communication protocols, frequently adding new applications or services, integrating legacy applications, or when you need secure and reliable connections between different data sources.
An ESB may not be suitable for integrating large volumes of data, implementing stateful business processes, or integrating cloud-based applications, web applications, or SaaS applications. In such cases, an iPaaS (Integration Platform-as-a-Service) might be a better alternative.
iPaaS, or Integration Platform-as-a-Service, is an alternative to ESB that specializes in integrating cloud-based platforms, web applications, mobile apps, and IoT devices. It offers advantages in terms of speed, ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and supports modern messaging standards like JSON and REST.
Popular ESB tools include MuleSoft Anypoint Platform and IBM App Connect. For iPaaS solutions, DreamFactory is a notable choice, offering features like instant API generation and enhanced security.
When choosing between ESB and iPaaS, consider factors such as integration complexity, costs, ease of use, scalability, security, compliance, customization needs, and real-life examples in your industry. In some cases, a hybrid approach combining both ESB and iPaaS elements may be the best fit.
Key considerations include the complexity of your integration needs, budget constraints, the technical expertise of your team, scalability requirements, security and compliance considerations, the level of customization required, and whether a hybrid approach is suitable.
Instant APIs for your ESB: MuleSoft & DreamFactory
Fascinated by emerging technologies, Jeremy Hillpot uses his backgrounds in legal writing and technology to provide a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including enterprise technology, SQL, data science, SaaS applications, investment fraud, and the law. Contact Jeremy at [email protected].
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