Cloud gives ESBs a new lease of life

ESBs have become the cornerstone of many SOA deployments, providing a reliable and flexible integration backbone across enterprises. However, the Cloud Computing model has given ESBs a new lease of life as the link between the safe, secure world behind the firewall and the great unknown of the Cloud.

As ESB vendors look for more reasons for users to buy their products, the Cloud model has emerged at just the right time. Companies looking to take advantage of Cloud Computing quickly discover that because of key inhibitors like data location, they are forced to run applications that are spread between the Cloud and the Enterprise. But the idea of hooking up the safe, secure world of the enterprise, hiding behind its firewall, and the Cloud which lies out in the big, wide and potentially hostile world is frightening to many. Step forward the ESB – multi-platform integration with security and flexibility, able to hook up different types of applications and platforms efficiently and securely.

More and more ESB vendors are now jumping on the ‘Cloud ESB’ bandwagon. Cast Iron, now part of IBM, made a great name for itself as the ESB for hooking Salesforce.com with in-house applications; Open Source vendor MuleSource has been quick to point to the advantages of its Mule ESB as a cost-effective route to cloud integration; Fiorano has tied its flag to the Cloud bandwagon too, developing some notable successes. Recently, for instance, Fiorano announced that Switzerland’s Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) had adopted the Fiorano Cloud ESB to integrate 70 on-premise applications with its Salesforce.com CRM system.

Over the next few months, we expect to see a growing number of these ‘cloud ESB’ implementations as more companies realize the potential benefits of combining ESBs and Cloud.

Cloud computing – balancing flexibility with complexity

balance2In the “Cloud Computing without the hype – an executive guide” Lustratus report, available at no charge from the Lustratus store, one of the trade-offs I touch on is flexibility against complexity.

To be more accurate, flexibility in this case refers to the ability to serve many different use cases as opposed to a specific one.

This is an important consideration for any company looking to start using Cloud Computing. Basically, there are three primary Cloud service models; Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). In really simple terms, an IaaS cloud provides the user with virtual infrastructure (eg storage space, server, etc), PaaS offers a virtual platform where the user can run home-developed applications (eg a virtual server with an application server, database and development tools) and SaaS provides access to third-party supplied applications running in the cloud.

The decision of which is the most appropriate choice is often a trade-off. The attraction of SaaS is that it is a turn-key option – the applications are all ready to roll, and the user just uses them. This is pretty simple, but the user can only use those applications supplied. There is no ability to build new applications to do other things. Hence this approach is specific to the particular business problem addressed by the packaged application.

PaaS offers more flexibility of usage. A user builds the applications that will run in the cloud, and can therefore serve the needs of many different business needs. However, this requires a lot of development and testing work, and flexibility is restricted by the pre-packaged platform and tools offered by the PaaS provider. So, if the platform is WebSphere with DB2, and the user wants to build a .NET application for Windows, then tough.

IaaS offers the most flexibility, in that it effectively offers the infrastructure pieces and the user can then use them in any way necessary. However, of course, in this option the user is left with all the work. It is like being supplied with the raw hardware and having to develop all the necessary pieces to deliver the project.

So, when companies are looking at their Cloud strategies, it is important to consider how to balance this tradeoff between complexity/effort and flexibility/applicability.

Steve