by Jeremy H • March 2, 2020
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 of 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.
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Before ESBs, businesses used to struggled with custom-coded, point-to-point application integrations. These point-to-point integrations resulted in messy, “spaghetti code” and to 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:
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.
Although DreamFactory is free and open-source, it includes three paid tiers (Small Business, 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. The platform gives developers the ability to quickly and easily integrate new applications, regardless of the technology—be it JDBC, JMS, Web Services, HTTP, or something else.
Although MuleSoft is a feature-rich platform, it comes with a steep learning curve. Before developers can use the platform to its full capacity, they’ll 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. However, 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 hybrid ESB/iPaaS with similar capabilities 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. It also lets users create REST APIs, but the process requires extensive manual coding. Finally, IBM App Connect features a variety of integration styles, like real-time, event-based, and scheduled batch data copy/synchronization—in addition to hundreds of pre-built app connectors.
Just 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.
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.
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