New life for enterprise service buses in the cloud

ESBs are helping some enterprises integrate cloud-based applications and manage application programming interfaces.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with an IT manager of a Fortune 1,000 company who said his company's multiple cloud arrangements (one provider for infrastructure, another for platform, others for applications) were integrated and talking to one another via an enterprise service bus (ESB). 

World Trade Center NYC construction Aug 2012-Photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo credit: Joe McKendrick

This suggests there is an emerging new role for ESBs, long seen as integration mechanisms for internal applications and shared services. 

Is the ESB -- often maligned in the past as a proprietary, centralized mechanism that may only add to enterprise complexity -- undergoing a revival as of late? In a recent article, CIO's John Moore suggests that the ESB is alive and well, assuming new roles in the fast-growing enterprise API and cloud spaces. 

Moore quotes Eli Rosner, vice president of global software engineering at NCR, which deployed MuleSoft ESB last year to bring together the company's data center running an SaaS solution, a customer's data center running ERP, and the public cloud. The business and technical justifications of the ESB include "the ability to handle complex integration while providing speedier time to market," the ability of developers to "integrate applications quickly."

Paul Fremantle, co-founder and CTO at WS02, discussed the convergence between ESBs and API management in Moore's article: 

"ESBs have taken on the quality of service, usage throttling and access control roles that are typical of API gateways. On the other hand, API management vendors have effectively incorporated a number of ESB capabilities into their products."

Eventually, both ESBs and API management will be subsumed into Integration as a Service offerings, ZapThink's Jason Bloomberg predicts.