Is Azure App Service about Integration?

Today and tomorrow is the BizTalk Summit in London (#BizTalkSummit2015). BizTalk is about integration. The summit is about the launch of BizTalk Services as part of the Azure App Service offering. Since the first talks about offering a Microservices platform during the Integration Summit in Redmond in December last year, I’ve started thinking about and struggeling with integration versus application development. There has traditionally always been a fine line between application development and integration. When implementing pure, messaging only based transformation, routing and protocol adaptation, we’re basically talking about integration. This is used to convey information from one application to the other in order for them to work with less or completely without manual copying of information. When adding orchestration and business rules, master data services, apps and portals access we’re more and more talking about application development. The application mostly being a composition of functions provided by silo’d application and SOA services. And sometimes adding more modern stuff like REST services to the composition.

Gartner has released its latest Magic Quadrant on Enterprise Application Platform as a Service earlier this year. To them, Azure App Service is (part of) an aPaaS platform. They define aPaaS as:

“Application infrastructure functionality, enriched with cloud characteristics and offered as a service, is platform as a service (PaaS). Gartner refers to it more precisely as cloud application infrastructure services. Application platform as a service (aPaaS) is a form of PaaS that provides a platform to support application development, deployment and execution in the cloud. It is a suite of cloud services designed to meet the prevailing application design requirements of the time, and, in 2015, includes mobile, cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics innovations.”

Especially the part “a platform to support application development, deployment and execution in the cloud” triggered me to write this blog post. When looking at the functionalities that should be provided by such platforms, integration is of course one of the capabilities. And integration comes in many forms. But, are these capabilities features that should be used to recreate legacy ways of application integration? Or are these functionalities provided to build moderns applications, based on – yes I dare to use the term again, even though Microsoft stopped using it since last month when talking about the Azure App Service – Microservices?

To me it is clear, Azure App Sevice is an application platform providing the tools and runtime services to quickly build modern, distributed solutions. Modern, because it uses APIs. APIs should be used, because Data Services, 3rd party APIs and SaaS Applications are built on that paradigm. And that paradigm facilitates agile solution development and quick time to market. Creating a modern, distributed, composite solution is using all the different building blocks provided by the aPaaS platform and the SaaS applications, Data Services and 3rd party APIs (for example the ones listed in programmableweb.com or the Azure Marketplace).

In my opinion, we should only use public cloud based legacy integration paradigms for hybrid purposes. That is, bridging on-prem soap services to cloud based API integration layers. We should not bother about providing traditional EAI and B2B like integration paradigms. Forget about Batching EDI messages, transaction scopes and stuff like that. I’d say, just boycot that in the public cloud. Just rely on idempotency of the independently deployed APIs. And provide an on-premises server solution for the legacy integration stuff. We shouldn’t be building ESBs in aPaaS. We should be building distributed solutions based on modern paradigms.

Let’s use this hammer (or nail gun, as Mikael Sand called it :-)) to handle nails. And let’s all figure out quickly what these nails can look like and what we can build with them. Maybe we should first find consensus on anti-patterns for Azure App Service within the large community we have.

Cheers, Gijs