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Growing hurdles in system integration

The near exponential growth in business applications, while initially praised, has companies realizing they have lost control of their data and business processes. Companies have unknowingly created information silos and are often left struggling to try and reconcile disparate data. Now more than ever, businesses are looking for ways to regain the collective benefit of these applications. Enter – System Integration. While a system integrator is no stranger to this scenario, these projects are growing more complex, and they will need to embrace a new set of approaches and tools in order to overcome these obstacles. The most common issues facing today’s system integrators are:


Lack of interoperability:The struggle to get individual systems to work together will grow as applications become more diverse. Applications are continuing to be built in a growing number of data formats and protocols, while legacy systems can remain overly rigid and prohibitive.

Unproven implementations: As the application environment continues to evolve, projects will arise that have no proven implementation method. These projects will require tools with greater flexibility to accommodate unforeseen challenges and hurdles.

Capital restrictions: While businesses often pay high prices for applications, they can have limited budgets for system integration. System integrators will want to focus on integration methods that allow for incremental adoption, allowing the business to grow with the system rather than forego essential functionality upfront in order to keep the project within scope.

Lack of innovation: As complexities grow, system integrators will be tempted to revert to traditional approaches that will feel safe. Not only will this conventional thinking create integration solutions limited benefits, but system integrators who regress to this behavior will find themselves quickly left behind.

Insufficient training: Post-deployment training is often overlooked and can prevent a business from taking full advantage of the benefits provided in a newly integrated system. It is important that system integrators user vendors that have both easy-to-use platforms and proven support teams for the end users.

With these growing obstacles, system integrators will find themselves dependent on the tools and integration platforms they choose more than ever before. It is vital to understand the options available, and the benefits of each vendor in connection with today’s challenges and trends. 

System integration trends & opportunities

In addition to these hurdles are trends in system integration that can provide worthwhile opportunities. IT System integrators will need to approach these opportunities carefully as they can provide as much complexity as they do value.

Mobile platform strategy: As mobile devices increase their time-share in our daily lives, we see their business use grow as well. Businesses now require increasingly flexible integration solutions that easily incorporate common mobile platforms into legacy application architecture.

Holistic integration: System integration has commonly been limited to new or flexible applications with a disregard for legacy software or valuable on-site databases. While businesses may find themselves operating entirely in the cloud one day, most businesses today have an array of application types (e.g., SaaS, on-premises, databases) that all need to work together in order to provide real value. System integrators will start to place greater priority on integration platforms that cater to a variety of application types as this holistic approach becomes not only desired, but expected.

Social technology as part of infrastructure: Social platforms are now a key component in a variety of business departments, but have consistently operated as information silos, unable to share data with other areas of the business. System integrators will need to include social platforms as part of their overall system integration as businesses continue to embrace this growing trend.

Incorporation of  app-based internet: More than 5 years ago, Apple introduced iOS, the first popular App-based operating system, and it created a paradigm shift in both the consumer and business marketplace. Businesses are taking advantage of this new application model as iOS and Android grow in popularity throughout a number of industries. Enterprise applications that operate on these platforms will be need to be incorporated into the larger business architecture.

While these trends breed new opportunities, they also require a new level of innovation and tools that can overcome some of their inherent barriers. System integration professionals will need to find the right tools in order to take advantage of these developing trends.

How system integrator’s can differentiate

System integrators can differentiate themselves from the competition by developing leading solutions that provide distinct business advantages. One method is to create a system that provides a company with better business intelligence. With ‘big data’ acting as the new buzzword, businesses are now realizing that they collect vast amount of data, but only taking advantage of a small sub set. System integrators that build solutions with better data mining, analytics processing, and business performance management will allow businesses to take advantage of this information and add significant value.

Another way to differentiate is by building a system that creates a competitive advantage for the business. Two ways in which this can be achieved is by building systems with better process automation or advanced monitoring, both provide the company with key insights that will keep them one step ahead of the competition.

Lastly, a system integrator can focus on creating a more modular system that promotes flexibility while simultaneously preventing data bottlenecks. One example of a modular approach is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). While the ESB still uses a central routing component to pass messages from system to system, the bus architecture lessens the burden of functionality placed on a single component by distributing some of the integration tasks to other parts of the network.

While solutions with these different advantages will allow a system integrator to differentiate, they are not mutually exclusive. The best system integration solutions will have some or all of these practices in place.

ESB as a system integration solution

An ESB can provide system integrators with the capabilities they need to meet today’s challenges while also providing the flexibility to take advantage of the trends of tomorrow. The architecture of the ESB is uniquely designed to allow core functions to be enclosed in separate components, resulting in a reliable solution that can be customized to meet the needs of different business architectures. Components can also be easily added onto the ESB at a later stage with minimal configuration or code, and with no modification required to the existing system. This agile design in itself makes an ESB a compelling platform, but in addition to the design there are also several notable features:

  • Location Transparency: Centrally configure endpoints for messages so that a consumer application does no require information about a message producer in order to receive messages
  • Transformation: Convert messages into a format that is usable by the consumer application
  • Protocol Conversion: An ESB accepts messages sent in all major protocols, and convert them to the format required by the end consumer
  • Routing: The ability to determine the appropriate end consumer or consumers based on both pre-configured rules and dynamically created requests
  • Enhancement: The ability to retrieve missing data in incoming messages, based on the existing message data, and append it to the message before delivery to its final destination
  • Monitoring/Administration: An ESB provides an easy method to monitor the performance of the system, the flow of messages through the ESB architecture, and a simple means of managing the system in order to deliver true value.
  • Security: ESB security involves two main components – making sure the ESB itself handles messages in a fully secure manner, and negotiate between the security assurance system used by each of the applications that will be integrated.

ESB advantages for system integration

The design and core features of an ESB allow it to provide a few key advantages when implemented as part of a system integration solution.

First, an ESB is easy to expand. An ESB allows system integrators to create an application system right way and when a new application is ready, all they need to do to incorporate it into the infrastructure is hook it up to the bus.

Second, an ESB is Scalable and Distributable. Unlike broker architectures, ESB functionality can easily be dispersed across a geographically distributed network as needed. Additionally, because individual components are used to offer each feature, it is much simpler and cost-effective to ensure high availability and scalability for critical parts of the architecture.

Third, an ESB is SOA-friendly. System integrators that work with companies interested in migrating to a SOA can do so incrementally. Starting with an ESB, allows these organizations to continue to use their existing system while plugging in re-usable services as they implement them.

Lastly, an ESB allows for incremental adoption. The large number of modular components offers unrivaled flexibility that allows incremental adoption of integration architecture as the resources become available, while guaranteeing that unexpected needs in the future will not prevent a ROI.

Mule as an ESB and system integration

While an ESB may appear to be an obvious choice for system integration, not all ESBs are created equally. Mule as an ESB is a stable, standards-based framework that makes great integration architecture simple. Although it does everything expected of any ESB at the most basic level – mediation, orchestration, routing, messaging, management, processing, high availability, enterprise security, etc. – it doesn’t stop there. Mule isn’t “just” an ESB ­­– it’s an integration platform, allowing system integrators to quickly create elegant, lightweight integration service-oriented architectures tailored to a business’s specific needs. This purposeful architecture provides Mule as an ESB with several distinct benefits:

Small footprint: From download size to memory and CPU usage, Mule is lean and mean. It performs well on commodity servers, virtual machines, and even developer laptops.

Easy to learn: Mule integrates with the developer tools you already use such as Eclipse, so there's no training required.

Cloud integration & connectors: Out-of-the-box cloud connectors provide the fastest and simplest way to integrate with cloud services and applications. Mule leverage over 100 transports and modules to integrate various applications, protocols, SOAP and RESTful web services.This enables Mule as an ESB to link cloud applications without creating custom code.

Scalable: Mule is used in critical applications at many large companies and has scaled up to 13k servers in a large distributed environment.

Easy to manage: Mule's integrated applications repository, performance diagnostics and tuning, SLA alerts, and integration with monitoring frameworks make managing Mule simple.

Deep visibility: From tracking business events for root cause analysis and regulatory compliance, to investigating messages flows for technical debugging, to getting system metrics, Mule provides deep visibility for all your business, development and operational needs.

In addition to these benefits, with Mule you are in good company. Mule is used in over 3,200 production deployments by leading organizations such as, Nokia, Nestlé, Honeywell and DHL, as well as 85 in the Global 500 and 5 of the world’s top 10 banks. It powers mission-critical applications responsible for massive revenue streams for organizations ranging from major airlines to global banks.

Value of Mule as an ESB to System Integrators

Mule as an ESB is the most widely used ESB because it provides direct value to both system integrators and the end user. System integrators who use Mule find that they are able to differentiate themselves by providing faster implementation times, while still offering a robust integration solution that can process vast amounts of data and provide high-level security. Mule as an ESB also provides businesses a solution with a superior time to ROI. This solution does not require lengthy business re-architecture projects, and instead allows value to be realized within a few months or even weeks, opposed to years.

Mule also provides direct value to the end user. Mule as an ESB is a reliable solution that requires low maintenance after implementation, so system integrators can sleep easy that businesses will have no issue maintaining their new solution. Mule as an ESB is also scalable, supporting future growth of the business after implementation. Companies will be presently surprised to find how easy it is to add new components as they grow. System integration professionals can also be confident that the business will have a great experience with MuleSoft as a vendor after deployment. MuleSoft has an industry-leading 97 percent customer satisfaction rate, and a developer community that is filled with innovative ideas and additional advice.

System integrators and a future with Mule as an ESB

While growing infrastructure trends provide a bright yet challenging future, there are still some immediate hurdles that require system integrators to build more flexible, modular solutions. This agility can often be found in well-developed ESBs; Mule as an ESB being the most widely used due to its lightweight design and ease-of-use. Mule as an ESB provides a solid foundation for future growth, enabling system integrators to create a scalable solution that will overcome the challenges ahead.

While Mule as an ESB is an impressive stand-alone integration platform, however, businesses that have long-term plans to move to an SOA framework can use Mule as a backbone for this larger architecture. For more information on a Mule ESB-based SOA, check out Mule and SOA architecture.

Download Mule as an ESB’s free trial today – as a fully self-service platform with no cost to start.