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Guide to integration architecture

The landscape of integration architecture is shifting as service-oriented and cloud-based architecture take the fore. To ensure success, enterprise architects and developers are turning to lighter-weight infrastructure to support more complex integration projects. The emergence of REST-based APIs and service-oriented cloud and mobile apps characterize a new style of application integration. This learning guide compiles a broad range of stories that together show the newest and most significant developments in integration architecture today.

No green fields for application integration
Since enterprise development offers little opportunity to work with green-field applications, "application developers" often act as "integration developers." The difficulty lies in overcoming silos and marrying new technologies with currently existing approaches. A proliferation of middleware tools adds to the challenge. Although users seek flexibility and ease of integration, a plethora of different middleware approaches can mean higher levels of complexity—not easy, flexible integration. "A more holistic approach to integration architecture starts with what currently exists in most organizations today—where you have silos of integration, expertise and knowledge," said Forrester's Ken Vollmer. He recommends forming centers of integration excellence to allow the diverse disciplines of application integration, process integration and data integration to come to together to support agile integrated deployments through planning, strategy and implementation.

Gartner analyst: REST APIs gain added importance in application integration design
As the Web and HTTP continue to march forward, REST principles increasingly influence API development, middleware and overall application integration. ''What we are seeing is that the design of APIs has become as important as the design of the user interface," said Daniel Sholler, Gartner vice president and analyst specializing in application architecture, integration and development issues. To achieve a more general approach to integration architecture, more APIs are supporting REST interfaces.

Enterprise architects mix REST integration with SOA
Increasingly, practitioners are finding that REST integration patterns are highly effectivefor integration architecture within SOA frameworks. The success of mixing REST integration with SOA has been spearheaded by Web giants like Google and Yahoo. Mike Gilpin, Forrester vice president and research director, says that REST has hit a popular streak in part because “the REST concept is friendlier and easier to understand if you are a Web developer.”

Crucial application integration trends for 2012 and beyond
Today's enterprise integration architects face the challenge of mixing new technologies with tried and true methods of enterprise application development. In the same vein, they must balance a growing need for innovation with the logistics of stable business. In an era where the typical enterprise sees silos of both integration and knowledge, a holistic integration architecture strategy can be elusive. In late 2011, SearchSOA.com sat down with Ken Vollmer, principal analyst at Forrester research, to hear his thoughts on the challenges—and bright spots—ahead for the field. His foresight about key application integration trends in 2012 takes into account that the application integration landscape is undergoing a transformation.

ESB performance depends on service design
While the popularity of ESBs has increased over the years, users still cite issues of complexity, performance and maintenance. But experts say that ESB challenges are often the result of the tool being used the wrong way—or for the wrong situation. "When you start putting application logic in the ESB, in my opinion, that is a wrong pattern, and that's where an ESB gets a bad name. If you want to write an application, then you use an application server," said Jeff Brashaw, CTO, Adaptris. Companies dealing with thousands of messages per second might notice periods of high-latency and blame ESBs. In fact, more attention needs to be paid to service design to ensure good ESB performance.

Profiles in application integration
Good integration architecture design continues to take the fore in today's era of service-oriented and cloud-based architecture. Integrating too rapidly is a major pitfallTo avoid the potential pitfalls of too-rapid cloud application integration, carefully planned architecture is a necessity; the same sound development processes apply to the design of complex SOA-based system upgrades. Optimal design is more important than ever as application integration calls for more flexibility and widespread workability. In the dawn of cloud computing application integration, experiences with integration-centric cloud computing like iPaaS indicate that the fast-growing number of cloud adopters face a future of complex integration and design challenges.

Where's the ROI in a public API?
Public APIs are on the rise, but the motivations and benefits behind creating public APIs remain cloudy to many interested companies. According to mashup expert Michael Ogrinz, that is because little material is available that explains "how" or "why" companies choose to develop public APIs. Enter "APIs: A Strategy Guide," an O'Reilly book focusing on the basic reasons why a company should build a public API—and how to get business management on board and make money in the process. "It provides a lot of helpful information that communicates the value of APIs and can help your management understand the risks and benefits," said Ogrinz.

App integration advisory: Use ESBs for message routing, translation
Today, ESBs are very common in SOA implementations—but they may not be necessary, or even beneficial. ESBs—often called the middleware version of the Swiss Army Knife—are touted for their versatility. They can provide a range of services from message queuing to translation between data formats.  But that versatility can also be the downfall of using an ESB, making integration architecture more complex than it needs to be. Experts suggest that the best uses of ESBs are for message routing and translation. Being aware of what the ESB needs to do—and paying attention to long-term strategic goals—are also crucial to using the tool correctly. Otherwise, companies will spend time and money configuring an ESB that creates more problems than it solves.

Enterprise application integration efforts get gamified
Today, some enterprise application integration experts and practitioners are taking a gaming approach to integrating the latest enterprise technologies, such as cloud architecture and Big Data. Following the lead of the gaming developer community, enterprise development shops are drawing on well-established game concepts to keep enterprise developers engaged and overcome major hurdles to integration architecture success.

Simplicity, security drive MQ management trends
Because application integration is more complex than ever, messaging middleware is more and more prevalent. Unfortunately, message queuing itself can weave a tangled web. User demand for self-service, data and event management and secure messaging are driving new trends in message queuing management, and vendors are responding. Learn more about the drive to monitor message queue software while maintaining security and simplicity.


This was first published in May 2012

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