What Is an ESB? Understanding the Basics and Benefits

5min read



Your team’s productivity hinges on its ability to implement and optimize agile practices, but many organizations lack the necessary tools to adopt them. That’s where an ESB comes in handy.

This guide lays out the benefits of an ESB, the challenges of ESB implementation, and the core principles you must follow when integrating critical business applications. You'll also learn how to select an ESB based on your unique business requirements.

Defining an ESB

So, what is an ESB? Short for “enterprise service bus,” an ESB is a type of system integration — a set of rules for integrating multiple applications.

An ESB architecture employs an infrastructure known as a bus to act as middleware between applications. Instead of integrating programs individually, each application only needs to communicate with the bus, providing a centralized point for maintenance and monitoring.

An ESB offers several advantages over point-to-point integration, making it the architecture of choice for companies interested in adopting agile methods.
Why should you use an ESB?

The primary reason to implement an ESB is to increase agility throughout your organization.

Point-to-point integration requires you to create custom code for each pair of applications that must communicate. This quickly becomes cumbersome when you need numerous integrations. Finding employees who know how to code in multiple languages is also challenging, leaving your business vulnerable to sudden changes in the labor market.

ESB solves these challenges by giving you more control over your integrations. Once you set up your business policies and structural rules, any application can connect and communicate with the ESB.

Azure Service Bus is a top enterprise service bus example used by large companies worldwide. You may also consider IBM App Connect, Amazon EventBridge, or another platform.

Benefits of an ESB

An ESB has many benefits, especially if you follow enterprise service bus best practices. Here's what you can expect if you switch to ESB from another integration method:

  • Enhanced integration: Once you set up an ESB, integrating new applications is easy. Each application sends data to the ESB. The ESB converts the data and sends it to other applications in the system, resulting in seamless communication.
  • Improved scalability and flexibility: ESB improves scalability and flexibility because you can easily add new applications. You can even swap out components as your needs change, making it easier for your company to adapt to evolving market conditions.
  • Increased security: An ESB controls communication among applications, utilizing built-in encryption, authorization, and authentication functions. These features apply to both incoming and outgoing messages, ensuring your company complies with each application provider’s security requirements.
  • Better application performance: You may struggle to monitor the flow of data from one application to another when using other integration methods. ESB makes it easy, so you can identify minor issues before they become major problems. This improves application performance and increases reliability.
ESB implementation

Before you implement an ESB, ensure you're familiar with its fundamental principles:

  • An ESB architecture's "bus" component uses a messaging server, such as AMQP or JMS, to decouple applications. This enables independent communication and information exchange.
  • For applications to communicate with each other, the ESB must have an adapter. This adapter helps each application "talk" to the bus component.
  • The information is typically transmitted through the bus using web services — standardized and represented in XML to allow for consistent and interoperable data exchange among applications.
  • In an ESB architecture, the adapter also helps with error handling, monitoring, message routing, and other tasks.
  • ESBs are usually stateless, meaning they don't save data from previous sessions. As a result, they process requests immediately.
5 core integration principles

In addition to grasping the fundamentals of an ESB, you must also understand these five core integration principles:

  1. Orchestration: Orchestration involves creating a new service by combining multiple components.
  2. Transformation: Every application has different data formatting requirements. The ESB must transform data into a readable format for everything to work correctly.
  3. Transportation: Transportation protocols dictate how applications communicate with each other. An ESB must negotiate transportation protocols among various formats.
  4. Mediation: Mediation provides multiple interfaces to produce alternate data formats or enhance backward compatibility.
  5. Non-functional consistency: An ESB allows you to improve your security policies and increase the consistency of your monitoring activities.
Primary considerations when selecting an ESB

Although ESB has many benefits, the architecture requires significant time and money during setup. That's why you must choose the right ESB for your business. Here are a few factors to consider:

Memory footprint

You don't want an architecture that ties up resources and hampers your employees’ ability to use their favorite applications. Before committing to an ESB, make sure it uses minimal system memory so you can better manage system resources.

Business needs

An ESB isn't just for exchanging messages between a bus and a set of applications. It's also helpful for improving application security and implementing business logic. Carefully consider your business’s needs to ensure you choose a suitable ESB.


Market conditions are constantly changing, forcing businesses to adapt. Someday, you may need to update your accounting system, introduce new products or services, choose a new target market, or adjust your approach to managing human resources. A scalable ESB will allow you to update your business strategy as needed.


To maximize flexibility, your ESB should work with multiple programming languages. Otherwise, you will need to hire additional employees or pay a freelance programmer to sort things out.

Cloud capabilities

Not every business has the necessary resources to implement on-premises IT solutions. If you prefer cloud-based solutions, make sure your ESB has cloud capabilities.

ESBs versus microservices

Many people wonder about the pros and cons of enterprise service buses versus APIs, but you should also understand the relationship between ESBs and microservices. Although they share some features, ESB and microservices architecture are distinct concepts.

Microservices architecture makes it possible to break a single application into small pieces. This allows you to change one piece without changing the entire application, increasing agility. ESB acts as a centralized hub, coordinating these microservices and fulfilling specific integration requirements.

Increase agility with Orderful

Electronic data interchange (EDI) helps you exchange electronic business documents with your trading partners. Once you have an EDI platform in place, you can use an ESB to connect it to other applications, increasing agility so you can scale your business.

Speak to an EDI expert at Orderful to learn how our fast, modern API solution can help you streamline your data exchange processes.


Go live with new trading partners in days, not months. Orderful’s modern EDI platform standardizes integrations and streamlines testing, getting your business connected with partners 10x faster than other solutions.

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