What is Enterprise Service Bus?

The enterprise service bus (ESB) is a software architectural pattern that supports real-time data exchange between disparate applications. Large organizations have multiple applications that perform various functions using diverse data models, protocols, and security restrictions. The ESB makes application integration easier by performing operations like data transformation, protocol conversion, message routing. Applications pass relevant data to the ESB, and it converts and forwards the data to other applications that need it.

What are the benefits of an enterprise service bus?

The enterprise service bus (ESB) concept can standardize and simplify communication, messaging, and integration between services across an organization. Next, we give some benefits for small-scale ESB architecture implementations.

Improved application integration

An ESB offers a central platform for enterprise application integration. Organizations can seamlessly integrate all types of systems and applications, no matter their underlying technologies or protocols. This makes it easier for organizations to maintain, manage, and scale their applications.

Increased developer efficiency

Developers build applications faster by using prebuilt communication services provided by the ESB. Teams share infrastructure costs and provision servers for combined usage. They reduce overheads and operational costs while they improve overall efficiency. An ESB can also lead to a faster time to market and reduced development costs.

Improved visibility and control

With an ESB, organizations can monitor the flow of data and services across different applications, and quickly identify and resolve any issues that may arise. This helps organizations ensure their applications are available, reliable, and secure.

How does enterprise service bus work?

An enterprise service bus (ESB) works on service-oriented architecture (SOA) principles.

SOA is a method of software development that uses software components called services to create business applications. Each service provides a business capability, and multiple services can also communicate with each other across platforms and languages.

The ESB platform provides communication services that applications use to interact with each other. Some examples are message transformation, protocol transformation, routing, and authentication.

(ESB implementation on AWS)

Next, we discuss key components of ESB architecture.


In an ESB architecture, endpoints can be thought of as the entry or exit points to the ESB.

Each endpoint typically has a unique address or identifier. You can implement endpoints using various technologies, such as web service interface, message queues, or FTP servers. The endpoints can also process different message types, like XML, JSON, or binary data.

The flexibility of the endpoint architecture allows the ESB to integrate with a wide range of systems and applications.


The adapter component in ESB tools translates messages between different formats and protocols. This means they can be properly consumed by the recipient software applications. It may also provide features such as message logging, monitoring, authentication, and error handling.


The bus is the core ESB component for message exchange between endpoints. It uses a set of rules or policies based on various criteria like message type, content, or destination to route messages.

You can define the policies in the ESB configuration to meet the requirements of complex business processes. It uses a variety of communication protocols such as HTTP, JMS, and FTP to communicate with the endpoints.

The bus works like this:

  1. The bus receives message at one endpoint
  2. It determines address of destination endpoints by checking business policy rules
  3. It processes message and sends it to the destination endpoint

For example, let's say the bus receives an XML file from an application connected to endpoint A. It determines that the XML file should be sent to endpoints B and C. Endpoint B requires JSON data while endpoint C requires an HTTP Put function. The adapter converts the XML file to JSON and the bus sends it to endpoint B. The bus performs an HTTP request with XML on endpoint C.

What are the limitations of the enterprise service bus?

Enterprise architecture has moved away from the enterprise service bus (ESB) due to the following limitations.


It requires specialized technical knowledge to implement and maintain an ESB, which makes it complex and expensive. Vendor lock-ins make it difficult to switch to another ESB solution, and limit the options for data integration. Teams experience prolonged wait times as only the ESB's central management team can integrate new enterprise applications.


ESB software introduces additional latency in the communication due to added layers of abstraction and processing. As the number of endpoints and communication service mapping grows, the ESB becomes a bottleneck and impacts performance. The cost of implementing high availability and disaster recovery for the ESB servers also increases.

Upgrading difficulty

Making enhancements to an ESB integration may cause instability in other connected components and requires significant testing before updates. Funding ESB project upgrades requires cross-team collaboration, which can be challenging.

What technologies are replacing enterprise service buses?

Today, the use of enterprise service buses (ESB) is limited primarily to legacy systems that require complex integrations. The ESB architectural pattern has been replaced by the microservices architecture, among other technologies.

A microservices architecture is made up of very small and completely independent software components with their own communication protocols that are exposed through lightweight APIs. It’s essentially the consumer’s job to use the microservice through its API, thus removing the need for a centralized ESB.

For more information, you can read about microservices and read about APIs.

The rise of cloud computing and microservices architecture has led to the emergence of new technologies that are often seen as alternatives to ESBs. We discuss some of them next.

API gateways

API gateways are lightweight components that provide a single entry point for clients to access multiple services. They are often used for managing APIs, enforcing security, and handling traffic.

Service mesh

A service mesh is a dedicated infrastructure layer for managing service-to-service communication within a microservices architecture. It provides features such as service discovery, load balancing, and traffic management.

Event-driven architecture

In an event-driven architecture, services communicate through asynchronous event handling instead of synchronous requests. An event is a change in state, or an update, like an item being placed in a shopping cart on an ecommerce website. Events can either carry the state (the item purchased, its price, and a delivery address) or be identifiers (a notification that an order was shipped).

What is an event bus?

Many organizations have moved from enterprise service buses (ESB) to event buses. An event bus is a pipeline that receives events. It connects application components together based on events, which makes it easier for you to build scalable event-driven applications.


Rules associated with the event bus evaluate events as they arrive. Each rule checks whether an event matches the rule's criteria. You associate a rule with a specific event bus, so the rule only applies to events received by that event bus.

A producer publishes an event to the event bus. The event bus filters and evaluates events as they arrive based on preconfigured rules, then pushes the events to consumers. Producer services and consumer services are decoupled, which allows them to be scaled, updated, and deployed independently.

How can AWS support your application integration requirements?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a suite of application integration services. They enable communication between decoupled components within microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications. If you’re curious, read more at Application Integration on AWS.

For example, you can use these services to meet your requirements:

  • Amazon API Gateway to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale for serverless workloads and web applications
  • Amazon EventBridge to build an event bus that connects application data from your own applications, software as a service (SaaS), and AWS services
  • Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) to build a message queue that sends, stores, and receives messages between application components at any volume

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