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An agile integration is a decentralized, microservices based, and portable approach to modernize an integration landscape based on people, architecture, and infrastructure.


You probably have heard about agile integrations, and you may wonder why should you adopt it anyways? Well, technology today is becoming smarter than ever. This is the time to not only trust the technology, but also to rethink of how you can modernize your applications in a distributed, hybrid and multicloud world.

Data is growing dramatically over the years, and enterprises are challenged to derive rich insights and knowledge from the huge amounts of data. However, enterprises face many challenges and bottlenecks when connecting various systems or applications within heterogeneous environments, due to portability and interoperability limitations. In addition, there is an increasing demand for continuous integration and continuous delivery and continuous deployment (CI/CD). Businesses today acquire the agility and rapid response to changing business demands in a continuous manner. In such scenarios, a centralized traditional integration might not be the best idea. Comparatively, an agile integration perfectly fits and helps to reduce the costs and increase the speed, and additionally allows a room of innovation.

An agile integration is a decentralized, microservices based, and portable approach to modernize an integration landscape based on people, architecture, and infrastructure. It is based on microservices architecture, where each application is broken down into smaller services which are decentralized, independent, and have specific functionalities. It is no longer a monolithic application that funnels its data through a centralized hub. Those microservices are containerized using container technology, which supports the continuous development and deployment of an application. Containers are used to develop, deploy, manage, and scale your applications. Containers require a hybrid platform for managing and orchestrating them. Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform is a hybrid cloud, enterprise Kubernetes platform to build and deliver better applications faster. Red Hat OpenShift supports the deployment of your applications anywhere: on-premises, public, or private cloud. It also provides orchestration capabilities through centralized management, monitoring, and logging.

Application architectures: SOA vs. microservices

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) emerged as a great enabler for systems to communicate with each other thanks to the innovation of the remote procedure call (RPC) protocol that allows real-time synchronous communication. A typical implementation of SOA integration is architected as centralized silos, by using an enterprise service bus (ESB) pattern, which establishes a synchronous connection to the back-end systems.

ESBs have proven to be a successful solution, but there is a number of challenges to consider. First and foremost, ESB is implemented as a single centralized bus, including all the integrations of the entire enterprise, and thus represents a single point of failure. Moreover, creating and maintaining ESB services is costly, and the possibility of reusing a service is quite low.

With an Agile Integration Architecture (AIA), you can simply and rapidly “lift and shift” your integration applications and workloads among different cloud environments and achieve an ultimate agility with low coupling features and lightweight deployment runtimes.

As illustrated below, SOA handles the integration on the level of an enterprise. It manages the integration across all applications (inter-application integration) within an enterprise architecture (enterprise-scoped). However, a microservices architecture is responsible for the integrations within an application (intra-application integration), and thus helps in achieving an agile, scalable, and resilient application by following an application-scoped integration.

SOA architecture vs. a Microservices architecture

The agile integration architecture is shifting the composition of an application from a single and solid silo of executable code (a monolithic application) into much smaller and independently running microservices.

Microservices offer these major benefits:

  • Agile: A microservices is developed independently from others, with a dedicated small team who fully understands and rapidly changes the code. Each microservice also has its own production line, so its versions are published independently from other microservices.

  • Scalable: A microservice scales the resources it needs independently, without scaling the other microservices or the entire application.

  • Resilient: A microservice is isolated from others during runtime, so it fails and recovers from a failure independently without affecting other microservices or sharing compute resources.

Characteristics of agile integrations

The three aspects of an agile integration are:

  • Decentralized integration ownership. Before microservices existed, SOA had a centralized integration team, and organizations often couldn’t distribute the responsibility of integration, due to the technology and infrastructure nature at that time. With agile integration, it is possible to distribute the integration responsibilities between different teams (application development teams and integration teams), by leveraging the cloud-native and fine-grained deployment.

  • Fine-grained delivery focused architecture. Instead of deploying all integrations in a centralized siloed ESB, which sometimes becomes a bottleneck, a fine-grained integration deployment takes place, including specialized, right-sized containers, which help in achieving great agility, scalability, and resilience.

  • Cloud-native infrastructure. A cloud-native approach is essential to the success of agile integrations, due to the powerful features it has. Cloud-native applications have fine-grained components that scale and change independently from each other, which leverages the best use of infrastructure resources with lightweight runtimes.

IBM DevOps and IBM AIOps

An agile integration brings with it many benefits, with lighter weight microservices, which are rapidly developed and independently scaled. Agile integration architecture helps your organization achieve an agile, scalable, and resilient solution.

But, what about the operational complexity during production, and how you can monitor, track, and manage the discrete pieces of your application – your microservices? IBM DevOps can help you build, test, and release your code automatically. It offers a series of automated steps that help you go from a code change to a new version release, ensuring a continuous delivery. It also improves the collaboration between the development and operations teams, and ensures a faster time to market. Moreover, IBM AIOps helps your organization avoid the nightmare of an outage and drives the success for your IT operations, with rich insights, greater innovation, reduced time and confident actions, with the help of AI.

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration helps you to build and maintain an agile integration. Application developers and integration specialists can build powerful, scalable, performant, and most importantly secure integrations and APIs quickly and easily.

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration provides a unified set of integration capabilities:

  • Application & data integration
  • API lifecycle management
  • Enterprise messaging
  • Event streaming
  • High speed data transfer
  • Secure gateway

IBM Cloud Pak for Integration can be deployed on almost any platform, including Red Hat OpenShift, a managed container environment that lets enterprises run their own containers while delivering auto-scale and self-healing features that avoid putting your integrations at risk.

Summary and next steps

To learn more about agile integration, read our IBM Redbook, “Accelerating Modernization with Agile Integration.”

To learn more and get started with IBM Cloud Pak for Integration, explore the articles, tutorials, and code patterns in the Cloud Pak for Integration hub.