ESB vs SOA: Key differences to keep in mind

June 18, 2021


This isn’t our first time talking about Enterprise service bus (ESB) and SOA, actually, we have two previous blogs about it that you can read here, and here, in which we go over the basis of these two architectures.


However, today we are going to take a look at them both and understand what are the differences between a service oriented and an enterprise service architecture, and which one is the best one for your own business.


Before we actually begin with this blog, make sure you actually read the two blogs we mentioned above, since they are crucial to understand these types of architecture.


ESB vs SOA: Which one is the best architecture


Let’s start by defining what these architectures are. For starters, an Enterprise Service Bus is simply a software architecture integrated by a numerous set of rules and principles that can integrate a series of different applications in a single infrastructure.


An ESB is a bus-like architecture through which software developers can integrate different applications and enable communication between them. This way, the software apps communicate or “talk” to the bus.


The ESB architecture is a middleware, meaning a software that is there to unify the existing and complex programs and it does so by connection all sorts of applications and miscellaneous services.


On the other hand, SOA, or Service Oriented Architecture, is also a software architecture used for building business applications that are focused on service-based development and the final outcome of said services.


In other words, a service oriented architecture is a type of software design where services are provided by application components through a series of communication protocols within a network.


Now, what as you can see from these two are software architectures, but not any regular type of architecture, but business-based ones. And, although they might seem similar, they truly aren’t.


As exposed by Shana Pearlman from Mulesoft back in 2016, it is time to start thinking about SOA and ESBs in a different light than we have been doing so far.


She states that SOA and ESBs shouldn’t be seen as just software solutions, but as principles of enterprise application integration. Basically, SOA should be perceived as a set of ideas to approach application integration, while the enterprise service bus is the actual core of this architectural structure.




The difference between ESB and SOA


If you payed attention to what we mentioned before, an enterprise service bus is a tool that can be used to reach the principles and ideas that compose SOA. In other words, an ESB can be used to reach a SOA.


To put it simply, in concept, both SOA and ESB are software architectures, but when you take that into practice, SOA becomes the goal, while the ESB becomes the tool through which software application integration can actually be possible and components can be used to deliver services and increase agility in the software development process.


Think about it this way, SOA is a service-oriented architecture that allows decoupled services to interact with one another, no matter of the platform or protocol it has. However, the way this exchange of data is even possible is through an ESB or enterprise service bus.


Basically, and enterprise service bus acts like the backbone of any SOA architecture and will most likely be present in any application integration driven software architecture.




Create the perfect solution with an ESB


Now that you know these two architectures are completely different from each other, in the sense SOA focus on building business applications that can be easily leveled and allow companies to grow, while enterprise service buses are just a part of the strategy to do that, it is time to consider implementing an ESB in order to achieve a service oriented architecture.


Here in Rootstack, one of the many technologies we use is Mulesoft, an ESB software that helps us connect applications and data, making it possible for us to achieve a service oriented application.


It is through ESB like Mulesoft that is possible to transfer data between various services, while SOA allows the communication between all these different services to happen thanks to its bundles of adapters that make this possible.


Implementing an enterprise service bus allows developers to quickly and easily connect, change and adapt applications to their needs, making integration of both next and existing systems something possible.


In a word where the technology we use needs to live up to the expectation, developing smartly with SOA, and implementing technologies such as an ESB is necessary.


Contact us and let us help you develop the software solution that you need! We have the resources, the knowledge, and the team to help you achieve your goals.


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