It is the natural order of things that business and process functions don't die, but instead mutate into something new, better or at least different, and this is driven by changes in business objectives and marketplaces. So for any business, understanding why they need to change is probably more important than knowing how they need to change.

What’s more, it makes real business sense to understand what drives change, as the speed of doing business and the number of technologies available to create that speed increase. This can result in a crazy world where old and new technologies mix to either make chaos or a whole new way of doing business. In order to avoid the potential chaos, organizations need to understand where they came from, where they’re going, and how to monitor and manage their current and future applications.

Changing Application Needs Call For High Flexibility

Take Middleware, which grew into Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), which in turn developed into the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Now, according to technology and market analysts Gartner Research, ESB is set to meet its end, to be followed by ...... Well, this may be one of those cases where it will be possible to say – ESB is dead, long live ESB.

In its current form, ESB is no longer really applicable, yet the core reason for having ESB continues to exist. For example, take a hyper-converged platform running Microservices: With continuous delivery of updates to those microservices, it will be more automated, more comprehensive, more complex and of course faster. Such environments make the need for the next generation of ESB absolutely essential.

These days it is necessary to connect with partners and customers in much more flexible, agile ways, and with this current ESB technology is no longer really helpful. Businesses are moving into a world where they need to adapt to market and practice changes that cannot be easily predicted, but can happen very quickly. Now, people change their application requirements every six months, and that time span is getting shorter and shorter. So from now on, flexibility and agility are key criteria.

What used to be called the B2B Gateway has now become the API Service Gateway. It allows businesses to interact with customers, partners and suppliers in a more direct way. So while it is not new as such, the difference is that there are no longer rigid rules based on contract terms and terminologies. Now, we need to expose more of our services and that needs lightweight components that can easily manage processes and provide reports. This is standard practice in the consumer world today, where smartphones use lots of small, tailored apps that aim to provide slim, slick, fast and easy-to-use services. And an increasing number of applications are becoming external services – with CRM the obvious example.

Shaping a Completely Integrated Business

Enterprises of any size must now be able to provide whatever is needed to build their business processes and activities to their exact specifications. The key change is that they need to create those short term, soup-to-nuts business ‘events’ (for example, an online, live-marketing event) that is completely accomplished, from start to finish, in under a week. Yet, in the on-premise application world – which will not go away – there is still a need for the more traditional, ESB approach towards integration.

In other words, this is not a case of either ESB or API Gateway, they are used in practice and in a world where both will exist – what is needed is a bridge between them. A bridge is what we can provide for users, but they must be able to understand what is going on in their business and where it is going. That means monitoring. For a start, they need to be able to monitor all existing classic enterprise applications if they want to offer real soup-to-nuts capability across everything they are likely to want to use.

The key today, of course, is customer experience. They will not be interested in how you meet their expectations of delivery by tomorrow afternoon, but since your competitors can do it you at least must match that. They will not care that your business has not been able to afford to invest in expensive ESB upgrades or that your transaction management processes are too slow to cope. For a growing number of businesses, the key thing to understand is the experience of their customers as well as their customers' customers. They are the ones that often ultimately choose where they spend their money, so their buying process experience is crucial for every part of the supply and delivery chains.

Keep Control in Your Hands

Having good control over the central applications in an organization can be a great business multiplier. If everything is connected by one ESB, then there is just one point to monitor business processes. But if there are five ESBs, and that is quite common, you will need a tool that can look into all of them to create a single view of what is happening. That way you will identify where any problems are. What is needed is a central workflow management that handles 100% of all business processes.

A good example of this is cloud services, which have increasingly short lifecycles and target specific processes. This is particularly the case with the hybrid cloud, which is the ultimate incarnation of the mix-and-match reality. When it comes to API Gateways, enterprises will start out choosing just one vendor, but the reality is that in four or five years’ time they will have installed several more. Then it will be a case of how to monitor activities and processes across all of them.

What Integration Matters delivers is a precise measurement of the service level of a business, based on what constitutes their service, what they think they are doing and what they would like to be doing. This applies equally, whether a business delivers one or two items to customers at a rate of hundreds of orders per second, or delivers a complex, multi-item package of goods and services where the customer considers a five-day delivery cycle to be good and a similar time-to-cash cycle for the vendor is acceptable.

Our goal is to ensure that our customers can at least maintain those service levels, or improve on them, particularly in terms of customer perception. Contact us for an online demo how our nJAMS End-to-End visibility suite bridges the gap between IT architects and LOB managers and ensures everyone is on the same page.

About the Author: Birgit Jordan is Marketing Director at Integration Matters.