Which ESB for me?

The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) came into parlance around five years ago, and in the intervening years it has matured.

As a result, most ESBs offer common functionality, at least at a basic level. So how should people decide which ESB to choose when going through product selection?

When I wrote the first paper on ESBs, ‘Best-of-Breed ESBs’, all those years ago, the questions to be answered were all around the definition of this new thing called an ESB, and what functionality it supplied. In that paper, I offered checklists of functionality to identify whether a product fitted the ESB definition, and how well it covered the functional requirements. Of course, as the idea became popular the ESB definition got severely mangled by analysts and vendors as each searched for an angle, but the functionality has remained largely agreed at least at the basic level.

But now the ESB concept has matured, the functionality checklists are of less value – everyone ticks most of the boxes. Instead, users seem to be focusing more on the characteristics of different ESBs as they try to make their purchase decisions or validate their original decisions. So now, the differentiators between ESB suppliers tends to be about what I call the ‘-abilities’ – that is areas such as scalability, manageability, availability and usability.  In other words, given that most ESBs ‘do what they say on the box’ in functional terms, it is now more important to understand how they will serve the production environments for which they are destined.

Expect more focus on the ‘-abilities’ as ESB vendors strive to improve their competitive positoning. For anyone interested, there is a free Lustratus Insight on this topic, ‘The Year of ESB-ability’, available from the Lustratus webstore. We have also decided that the time is right to produce a new version of the original Best-of-Breed ESBs paper to take the new level of ESB maturity into account, which we hope to make available in the next few weeks.


Posted in enterprise service bus, esb, Imported, SOA.