Is NoESB a euphemism for “more code in apps”?

Yesterday I tweeted the title of this blog post. But at that moment I didn’t know yet that this was becoming the title of a blog post. And now it is :-).

I recommended the use of an ESB to a customer. Oh dear. Before I started working on that recommendation I organized workshops with all kinds of folks within that organization and thoroughly analyzed their application landscape, information flows, functional and non-functional requirements. The CIO had told me at the start that he was going to have the report reviewed by a well known research firm. And so happened.

The well known research firm came back with a couple of comments. None too alarming. Except for one: the advice I gave, to implement an ESB was “old fashioned” because ESBs are overly complex centralized solutions and therefore we should consider using API Management. Whaaaaaat?

First of all, let me explain that I have found out that when we talk about an ESB, quite some people automatically think that that is about on-premises software. That’s a wrong assumption. ESBs can run in the cloud as well. As a PaaS solution indeed.

Second, an ESB can also be used to integrate external apps and not only apps that are within your own “enterprise”.

Third, API Management is not an integration tool. With regard to integration capabilities, it’s merely a mediation tool. With strong virtualization, management and monitoring facilities, for both admins and developers. Developers that use your APIs to create new apps.

The well known research firm also said that NoESB is a new thing that should be considered.

I think that we are just moving the complexity elsewhere. And the bad thing is that we are moving it in places (mostly apps) that are developed by people who don’t understand integration and everything that comes with it. People who have issues with understanding design patterns most of the times, let alone integration patterns. People who most of the times don’t have a clue about manageability and supportability. People who often say things like “I didn’t expect that many items to be in that list.” or “What do you reckon, he actually uses this app with mimimum rights. We haven’t tested that!” or “A 1000 should be enough.”. Famous last words.

Of course the ESB has caused lots of troubles in the past and it lots of times still does. But that’s not the fault of the ESB. That’s the fault of the people implementing the ESB, using the wrong design patterns. Or using ESB technologies that do not (fully) support design patterns. Or ESBs that are misued for stuff that should have been implemented with other technologies and just bridged using federation.

I’m a bit worried about the new cloud offerings currently becoming popular rapidly, which are still in beta or even alpha stage. Cloud services that are offered for integration purposes, which can easily be misused to create horrific solutions. Not adhering to any design pattern at all. And not guiding the powerusers (DevOps) in applying them either. Do DevOps even know about design patterns? (sorry if I offend anyone here).

I’m afraid that in the near term, lots of new distributed apps will be created with brand new, alpha or beta stage technologies by people who are neither developers, nor operations folks. People who know little about architecture and patterns and who will create fat apps with lots of composite logic. And integrate with NoESB. Disaster is coming soon. Who’ll have to clean up that mess? Who you gonna call? FatApp Busters! 🙂

Cheers and happy hacking, Gijs

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