This blog entry discusses
Forrester Wave report on ESB market. The report endorses ESB products and suggests that
ESB is “the most straightforward way to get started with service-oriented integration today”.

And I’ve always thought that the most straightforward way is to start
implementing services instead of infrastructure products (however useful these products might be).
As I blogged before, ESB is not
a magic wand that will make SOA happen with a flick of a switch.
SOA is about implementing services that provide some value to their consumers. Whether these services
are mediated by an ESB is completely secondary.

In my opinion, an ESB should come into play later, after certain critical mass of services is designed (
and potentially implemented) and
a need for mediations and transformation provided by an ESB becomes more obvious.
In certain environments with
a relatively homogeneous application set (e.g., an organization which is 100% J2EE shop),
ESB may not be required at all, assuming that all applications can speak Web services and
canonical data model is well defined.

Even in heterogeneous environments, there are options. For example, ESBs can be used to provide
mainframe integration capabilities (conversion to copybook format, etc.), but a
different approach could be to use CICS 3.1
which support SOAP/XML natively.

The bottom line is that the need for ESBs must be driven by specific business and technical requirements,
not by some kind of perceived goodness of ESB products in general. That’s why I recommend
analysing requirements, designing services (and, perhaps, implementing certain set of services) before
implementing ESB infrastructure.

One thought on “Is ESB the Starting Point for SOA?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. One of the biggest problems faced by the SOA community today are technology vendors trying to ride the buzzword waves. Everybody wants to do SOA, so if you can come up with a way to add SOA to the name of your product suite name, you’re probably making a lot of money.

    For me, SOA is about addressing changing business needs, improving less-than-optimal business processes, and identifying bottlenecks and low-hanging fruit for turning good business into great business. The technology to use in the process is not in scope for professional business architects and solution architects really doing SO.

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