Enterprise Serial Bus (ESB) was introduced in 2002, serving as communication centre by interacting with various on-premises software applications.
In 2011 integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) was introduced to the integration scene to connect various cloud applications. Soon it evolved into a platform that could integrate both on-premises and cloud apps.
By definition, it seems that the concept of ESB is obsolete and will be completely replaced by iPaaS. This has already sparked curiosity among industry experts. Some believe this is already happening and ESB will soon be history.
Yet we see many organizations still using ESBs, with no intention of adopting iPaaS for their integration needs - at least any time soon.
It will be interesting to explore if these two technologies can co-exist or be used in parallel in today’s cloud-driven world, or whether there is space for only one of these platforms. If the latter is true, now long will it take for one to overcome the other?
The Current State Of ESBs
It is true that since the inception of SaaS applications, organizations across the board are not as dependant on on-premises software. Having said that, it would not be appropriate to say that on-premises systems are redundant or obsolete. They continue to be an integral part of any IT setup. SAP, for instance, is still pretty much in demand. And where there are on-premises apps, ESB technology remains a recommended solution for aggregated services and embedded integrations.
Moreover, ESBs have evolved with time. Many modern, light-weight ESBs are cloud-enabled, while some even talk with REST APIs.
This means some ESBs are capable of doing what iPaaS does best, along with the innate capability to communicate with on-premises apps.
The Case for iPaaS
If modern ESBs are capable of doing what iPaaS can do, they why move to iPaaS?
Cost, Resources, And Maintenance
Any on-premises app requires set up and maintenance – and this comes with a cost. Consequently, many on-premises apps that lived on the ground in the pre-cloud era are now moving to the cloud. And if the trend continue—which is very likely—there will be very little left on the ground. ERPs, which were cloud-resistant for quite a long time, too have introduced cloud-based versions.
And when it comes to integrating cloud apps, iPaaS does the job well. As far as cost is concerned, the installation and maintenance cost of iPaaS is close to nothing. The players mostly offer pay-as-you-use subscription model.
ESBs are not fully capable of integrating IoT. iPaaS, on the other hand, due to its high flexibility and availability, are best suited for handling IoT.
Next, most products these days come with APIs, which provide a structured way to engage with other products and systems. This direct interaction eliminates the need for middlewares. In this case, ESBs take the backseat.
Lastly, iPaaS enables agile integration. Since it’s an online platform, the integration layer can keep pace with changing needs, and decisions are made faster. This is possible because there is no or minimum coding involved. Moreover, it serves as a single platform for all integrations.
Deciding Between iPaaS and ESB
While it seems from the above argument that iPaaS is a natural winner, it is incorrect to conclude that iPaaS will replace ESB.
The iPaaS space is evolving, but it still needs to cope with the increasing security risks it faces while exposing legacy apps to other online services.
Besides, ESBs are gradually starting to integrate with cloud apps in one way or the other, which not many would have imagined some year ago. The modern ESB may evolve into a platform that reduces the obstacles it currently faces in terms of integration.
Both platforms serve different purposes, yet the gap between them is thinning gradually. That said, it may be too early to decide or even debate on which is best. As of now the two technologies can be complement each other and work in parallel in any organization, driving innovation and excellence in the areas that they each fit best.