Comparing ESB and Integration Suite Functionality

One of the more common questions we get from clients is about how to decide between enterprise service bus (ESB) and comprehensive integration solutions (CIS's) for meeting integration needs.  The answer will depend on the type and depth of your integration challenges.

Forrester defines ESB's as:

"An intermediary layer of middleware through which a set of reusable business services are made widely available."

These services typically include features for supporting multiple levels of connectivity, a wide range of mediation services (including dynamic provisioning capability), lightweight orchestration and multiple features for supporting change and control aspects of the ESB's behaviour.  The model below provides more details on the specific features.

The ESB Reference Architecture Model

ESB Reference Architecture Model

ESB's are a great starting point for enhancing integration capability and in many cases, this level of technology is all that many enterprises need or can afford.  For a deeper discussion of ESB features, check out my March 26, 2010 document entitled, "The ESB Reference Architecture Model".

In a similar vein, Forrester defines CIS's as:

"suites of tools that provide a broad array of capabilities for supporting internal and external integration requirements including enterprise application integration (EAI), B2B integration (B2Bi), and integration-centric business process management (IC-BPM)."

It is important to note that CIS products all include ESB features at their core as shown in the architecture layer of the following picture:

The CIS Reference Architecture Model

CIS's can be thought of as ESB's on steroids.  The integration features are more comprehensive than those found in most ESB's and the level of support for application development is stronger as well, providing direct links between model-driven application development and business process management and B2B integration features.  For a more in-depth look at CIS tools, refer to my April 19, 2010 document entitled, "The CIS Reference Architecture Model".

So, what do we recommend?  Use an ESB for your basic integration needs and move up to a CIS as the business requirements demand it.  Of course, the business needs may require you to implement a CIS at the outset and that's OK.  Just don't make the assumption that an ESB or a CIS is automatically the best way to go.  Match your needs to the most applicable solution.

Let me know what you think.  Just drop me a line to



CIS versus ESB versus Mashups versus AIS?

Hi Ken, great comparison! It shows however the problem of TLA market fragmentation. Our Papyrus Platform is a perfect CIS solution plus the complete content management functionality that is not yet described in your CIS architecture. Additionally we focus on the change management aspect through the business user that we refer to as ADAPTIVE. So is Papyrus now AIS (Adaptive Integration Solutions)? Or are we a Process Mashup? Describes Adaptive Processes better what we do?

How do we distinguish ourselves with all those acronyms that we cover - ECM, BPM, CRM, CCM, EAI, ESB, ACM and now CIS???

I gave a two hour REAL-LIVE demo to Mike Gilpin and John Rymer a few weeks ago and they were very impressed with our application modeling to execution capabilities. Neither mentioned CIS and related research to me.

I find the advice to start with some ESB and then 'move up' to CIS as not very enlightening to businesses. Can you elaborate how someone would do that? An ESB implementation is a HUGE effort and you don't simply 'move up' later.
I am honestly stumped as to how to position truly innovatove application solutions in todays marketplace. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Comparing ESB and CIS Products

There are many examples of enterprises that start their integration journey with an ESB and then move up to a more sophisticated integration suite as their needs grow. This is not a radical approach. The actual migration is often minimized as the providers of ESB and CIS products are often the same vendors (who have pre-integrated the related tools).