ESB or iPaaS - It Doesn't Have to Be a Zero-Sum Game

It Doesn’t Have to Be a Zero-Sum Game

As more companies look to harness the many benefits of cloud computing, finding the best solution to integrate all their applications, with one another as well as with all their on-premises legacy systems, is becoming increasingly complex. While some are advocating that the era of traditional ESB is over, ​​Hybrid Integration Platforms and ESBs are effectively being used at the same time by enterprises to hold their internal architecture and legacy systems together, while still accommodating new integrations.  

For many IT leaders, the solution to their integration challenges was to turn to the cloud-based Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) offering to supplement their existing enterprise service bus (ESB) installations. But understanding which offering is better and which one is most appropriate has not always been simple.  

To begin, let’s unpack each offering to better understand what they bring to the table.  

At first glance, ESB and iPaaS appear similar. They both help integrate systems and applications. But the differences soon reveal themselves, especially when it comes to scalability, complexity, and flexibility.  

ESB rose to fame in the era before the cloud. When big enterprise legacy systems like SAP and other ERP and CRM offerings ruled the roost. ESB was an architecture which helped companies manage high-volume and complex traffic within their IT ecosystem, effectively placing a communication bus between applications. It has been described as a ‘switchboard’, rerouting messages between a company’s systems.  

But then the cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) era took over and IT leaders needed something that could handle the growing integration needs defined by the more lightweight messaging and document standards common to the cloud environment. This need was also compounded as companies began connecting with partners and suppliers in an ecosystem economy.  

In this environment iPaaS swiftly gained popularity.  

Designed to host cloud integrations between cloud applications and data sources, iPaaS is lightweight and horizontally scalable. CTOs like the fact that iPaaS can be up and running quickly as it isn’t burdened by a learning curve, as well as the fact that it doesn’t require the heavy capital outlay of an on-premise solution.  

With all the benefits of the new cloud solution, many declared ESB dead and hailed iPaaS as an example of how cloud was redefining computing. But as is so often the case, we should never underestimate the power of a tried and tested technology, especially with many enterprise organizations still relying on the workhorse, ESB, when it comes to managing on-premises legacy technologies.  

Pros and Cons of ESB and iPaaS at a Glance

Managing integrations is a critical part of any businesses which take digital transformation seriously. It is useful to have a good understanding of when ESB and iPaaS shine.  

Here are five reasons why many businesses are looking to move from ESB to iPaaS solutions:  

  • ESB is an on-premises solution. It’s designed to be the middle layer between the cloud and local data. Because iPaaS is cloud-based it doesn’t require on-premises software and without the need for hardware, it is more agile and adaptable.
  • ESB doesn’t hold any volume of data at any time, making it stateless. iPaaS, however, facilitates real-time data exchange. With iPaaS, users can transform data as it moves from source to destination. Moreover, iPaaS is well-connected. It eliminates the dreaded data silos, allowing for improved collaboration, which is highly desirable in a digitally driven economy.  
  • Directional scalability is a big consideration when choosing a solution. Given its evolution, ESB is logically best suited for vertical scalability since it was designed to handle the integration of complex internal systems and architecture. Due to its low latency, iPaaS shines when it comes to horizontal scalability, allowing organizations to integrate with their partners, cloud services and other third parties, quickly and painlessly. Horizontal scalability has become all the more important with the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.  
  • ESB requires skilled IT professionals to manage the system. The low or no-code environment of iPaaS means it can be used by anyone from the CTO to marketing and HR teams.  
  • IPaaS solutions support multi-tenancy and thus an increased pace of delivery. Projects can commence quickly due to the solution not requiring onerous setup of on prem installations.
What If I Need Both?

While the benefits of iPaaS are clear, some enterprise organizations are reluctant to ditch ESB for good, choosing to rely on it as the glue to hold their internal legacy systems in place. For those who are worried about the complexities and cost of making a change, hybrid architectures are becoming increasingly relevant.  

A Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP) is now the recognized way to integrate, providing the ability to connect anything, anyone, and anywhere, from cloud, to on-premises systems, and to edge devices. This level of interconnectivity ensures that the right data can be easily accessed by the right person at the right time. HIPs use a collection of tools including connectors but also add data access, transfer and storage capabilities, this includes ETL, API management, edge services and data lake architectures.

Synatic’s integration solution can handle both near real-time and batch integration needs. It has been built for cloud as well as on-premises, can manipulate and transform large volumes of data, and can work with a variety of integration formats and protocols to meet the needs of your dynamic dataverse.  

Synatic has done extensive work with global enterprises, especially those in the financial services sectors, which are often still very reliant on ESBs. We have seen that it is not only possible, but can be highly effective, to deploy our hybrid integration platform to run alongside ESBs. This lowers the risk while still accommodating new integrations, in an environment that offers all the scalability and flexibility of iPaaS. With Synatic’s Nimble, Simple, and Powerful Data Solution you have the ability to leverage modern and legacy technology to build a business that is equipped to thrive in the connected era.

Martin Naude
June 28, 2022
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