Practicing managers often compare a company to a living organism. If we develop this idea, then the IT infrastructure can be considered the nervous system in this "organism". It receives information from external and internal sources, transmits it, stores it, reproduces it, etc. that is very close to what our neurons and brain do.
But there is one thing you should remember. Whereas a company's development can be compared to the life cycle of a living creature (birth, survival, growth, death), the development of an IT ecosystem is rather an evolutionary process. It grows and becomes more complex, takes on more and more functions and processes, and changes.
The First "Star"
Let's consider a simple and clear example – an online store. At the beginning, its IT infrastructure is quite simple, consisting of two or three elements with the relevant integrations between them. CRM for customer service provision and order processing, an online store on Bitrix and integration with Amazon marketplace.
As the business grows, the number of elements in its ecosystem multiplies. First, they add a WMS program for easy stock control, then – ERP for planning the manufacturing workflow, PIM for product information management... The number of integrations is growing exponentially.
Integrations of this type are called star integrations (for the multi-beam structure) or spaghetti integrations (as the integrations are all muddled up), and they would be useful if a company does not plan significant expansion and growth or the IT transformation. However, it is worth remembering that the star has certain features that can have negative impact on the growth of IT infrastructure.
Upgrade of any element inevitably entails an extensive re-establishment of existing integrations. For example, if there is Bitrix update, all the integrations "tied" to it have to be reworked.
Event logging in each of the integrations is implemented differently (if at all). If the data is lost or is submitted in an inappropriate form, it is extremely difficult to track at what point and why the error occurred.
Each new system element requires a significant investment in the point-to-point integration. You decide to sell products via another marketplace, and you have to integrate it with an online store website, CRM, WMS, ERP, PIM, etc.
Business analytics becomes even more complicated: the data is scattered among different sources, stored in different formats, and duplicated. It is not an easy task to combine them into a convenient tool for making managerial decisions.
The maintenance of a growing infrastructure takes more time and money. Fewer resources are left for improving its performance.
IT Evolution Pathway
Evolution has already proved the right track to remain competitive by developing the central nervous system.
In the IT infrastructure, the role of the central nervous system is performed by the ESB (stands for "enterprise service bus") layer. After the ESB integration, the IT infrastructure layout becomes much more efficient and transparent.
The ESB bus combines a number of features that in a star integration are distributed across integrations or are not implemented at all.
The ESB collects information from other systems both included in the company's IT infrastructure and external. The information is transmitted in the form and in the formats in which it is stored in the source system.
The ESB converts data into necessary formats for further transmission to other systems.
The operator sets logic for routes and conversions: the source of particular data, how it should be converted, and where it should be sent.
The logs are saved in the message broker. In the event of errors or losses, you can easily identify when something went wrong, instead of waiting for repeat errors. Consequently, the process of correcting errors and restoring data is quick and easy.
Current techno-economic paradigm dictates its own rules. The company's success is closely tied to its ability to promptly react, transform, and scale up. In this respect, the horizontal integration with ESB provides a clear evolutionary advantage to the company.
Need to connect to a new marketplace? There is no need to write dozens and hundreds of point-to-point integrations, you only write the integrations between the ESB and the marketplace and configure data routes inside the enterprise service bus. The latter can be manageable even by someone who is not a professional developer: the ESB interface is clear and easy to use, the entire setup will only take a few hours.
A CRM system update has been released? Again, you don't have to rewrite all the integrations.
So, if you have:
3+ services in the IT infrastructure,
strategic plans for developing and scaling your business,
several communication protocol,
a need to track information,
integration of the ESB bus is the most logical solution allowing you to reduce development and maintenance costs in the future and, as a result, improve your work efficiency.
Horizontal integration using a service bus has its disadvantages. ESB is a separate system that requires additional resources: dedicated servers, primary integration costs. Nevertheless, in the long run, if the company wants to scale and and evolve, these expenses will pay off.
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