Saturday, February 16, 2008

Three ESB challenges for the enterprise

Enterprises that decide to introduce ESB concepts and products as a way of messaging and services platform are challenged in three ways:

  • Functional domain boundaries
  • Multiple ESB products
  • Federated infrastructures
Functional domain boundaries

Policies have to be in place to (not) allow for cross boundary service calls and data reuse. The desired level of autonomy of functional domains determines the tolerance of these cross boundary dependencies.

As SOA at the organization level strives for loose coupling to achieve ultimate organizational flexibility, the ESB concepts have to support functional boundaries. This may result in the concept of domain buses that are connected via a corporate bus.

Policies have to guide ownership- and management responsibilities for the defined domains within the ESB concept, as well as for the data and services available on the platform.

Multiple ESB products

In the current era, enterprises are confronted with the deployment of multiple ESB products. An enterprise that uses e.g. SAP will most likely have a Netweaver PI implementation. And if the IT of one or more business units is based on Microsoft products, there will also be a Biz Talk Server implementation. Innovative parts of the organization that use Cordys BPM tools, will likely have a process server based on the Cordys ESB, or it may be Tibco or Oracle, or all of them. And perhaps the enterprise supports IBM Websphere ESB at the corporate level, not to mention that IBM's Advanced ESB (a.k.a. Websphere Message Broker) may be on the game as well.

Policies have to be in place to regulate what processes and services run on what products, taking the functional domains into account. Think of how to define your policies if one of the product implementations spans multiple functional domains where you defined a corporate bus of another vendor for inter domain communications. E.g. SAP Netweaver PI is used for the Financial domain as well as for the HRM domain. It will not always be very clear to the developers to use the corporate ESB to communicate between Finance and HRM in this example. Architectural policies will have to enforce this for the sake of autonomy and flexibility (design-to-change).

Federated infrastructures

Another challenge is the federated ESB infrastructure. If applications only run in a central data center, there will not always be a need for a federated ESB. But if applications also run on distributed locations, e.g. multiple data centers, offices, devices (mobile or not), shops, trains, stations, ASP's, etc. a central ESB deployment will not suffice. And even if the applications run in one data center, but in network zones separated by firewalls, some kind of federated ESB infrastructure will be needed.

Policies have to be in place to guide the implementation and use of federated ESB infrastructures, including federated control of the ESB, to allow for distributed services to smoothly communicate across geographic- and network boundaries.


Enterprises will have to spend serious efforts in architecting and governing an ESB infrastructure. All three challenges mentioned above have their own characteristics that are interdependent and must be balanced for optimal results in terms of efficiency, flexibility, manageability, stability, autonomy and governance.


Anonymous said...

Do you have examples of policies at each level?

This is a very timely post, and you are spot-on. All three layers must be considered, and considered independently, or we will have created a bigger monster than we solved.

--- Nick

Jack van Hoof said...


I have no real examples of policies yet. We addressed the needs and we will start working on them the next couple of months (I hope).


Unknown said...

I'm doing my research on ESB and the challenges of implementing it in a secure please any suggestions....