The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) has assumed immense importance for enterprises, which are grappling with the challenge of integrating their disparate application systems. ESB is an energising technology for integrating applications and is the backbone layer that can integrate disparate applications to enable the free flow of information across an enterprise. The success of any Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in an enterprise can only be built upon a simplified service infrastructure that includes an integration layer supporting dynamic interactions across services. ESB can help solve the integration needs in an SOA driven manner by adapting to any inherent heterogeneity that exists in an enterprise's IT infrastructure. An ESB can also support the SOA goals of shared services, reuse as well as help remove the task of managing service interactions by taking on that responsibility. Organisations such as the Indian Railways and Container Corporation of India Ltd are excited about ESB. These corporations are evaluating this technology and have plans to implement it in the near future.
R Dhamodaran, Vice-president and Country Executive, Software Group and Developer Relations, IBM India, says, "ESB is a technology construct that allows various applications, information sources, processes and people, to interact and deliver business performance. Traditionally, such interaction was 'hard coded' using custom code and usually revolved around a temporary master database. Moreover proprietary integration tools are expensive." He adds that this is no longer practical or feasible as business requirements change more frequently than they used to. SOA is being promoted in the industry as the next evolutionary step in software architecture that can help enterprises meet ever more complex challenges. "ESB is the heart of SOA," says Dhamodaran.
Better cost control with ESB
Most ESB deployments are based on open standards, and are considered to be innovative and cost effective. Dhamodaran, of IBM explains, "While it is difficult to estimate the overall differences in costs between an ESB and a proprietary Integration Hub deployment, on the product procurement level savings should be greater than 50 percent." However although industry pundits feel that proprietary Integration Hub deployments involve far less effort than open standards based ESB deployments. This, however, is expected to change over time, as open standards embrace more complex requirements such as support for BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services), Security and Transaction State Management.
Better integration of protocols
At present different protocols are available and they talk to each other, which in turn has facilitated better implementation of ESB. Dhruv Singhal, Head Professional Services, BEA Systems India Private Ltd, says, "Technologies like ESB can help protocols such as HTTP and those that comprise Web Services and talk to each other in a standardised way. This in turn helps enterprises integrate different applications and enable a smooth flow of information across the organisation without changing the basic IT infrastructure." An ESB has the capability to support multiple standards, which in turn helps it integrate applications in a heterogeneous environment.
Enterprises gear up to offer superior services
It is important for any organisation to provide multiple-levels of value-added services, which can come about only if applications are integrated resulting in the ability to bundle services into a single integrated offering. Picture this-a mobile service provider wants to offer different value-added services such free SMSs with voice connections as a single package to its customers.