IBM Integration Bus Review

Good integration capabilities with an easy-to-learn language but is very expensive

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution for integrations of traffic between internal applications, communications, and transactions between various internal applications. We also use it for integration with various external parties.

How has it helped my organization?

Before we implemented IBM to integrate with other external parties, we had buckets of applications to build, and maintenance was difficult, as was support. On top of that, integration wasn't well controlled and managed. Right now, post-implementation of IBM ESB, we have a better structure. We have better teams in development and response to customers. We have an application that is centrally managed and monitored. We have better SOA experience in our development process.

What is most valuable?

The feature we find most useful is the ease of development.

It provides a variable within our application it can easily be used across various applications. 

ESQ is very robust and easy to learn. That's the language the solution is based on. 

The solution can scale.

The stability is mostly pretty good.

What needs improvement?

There are experiences we have on the application, such as latency issues. There are no inherent components for you to throttle and measure the velocity of transactions. For that, you have to get a separate application and set up more robust rules. Then, you can handle API throttling and a number of business logic and rules. You need to implement DataPower, in order to have this. It should have been integrated into a single application rather than having to deal with various applications and components. It would be nice if everything could be packaged under one solution.

Today, the IBM business rule engine, the DataPower is outside the Enterprise Service Bus. It's sold as a different feature or application. If it could be integrated, then it's able to handle a lot more of what we are doing now rather than just have a stateless ESB that you can't do much on, and a set of normal business rules.

If you have the business rule engine that can help us measure velocity, throttle, monetization, et cetera, within the ESB, it would be better than it is now. There won't be any need for one to start looking out for any possible change in the near future.

The initial setup is a bit complex. 

This is a very expensive product.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using the solution for more than five years at this point. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There is some latency and slowness in the application. At times, we have to restart the server, and there are some errors we can't handle. We send those to IBM. It's relatively stable, however, periodically, we have problems, which is why we have to get IBM to help us resolve them. That said, I would describe the product as stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of extensibility to other applications after development, it's highly extensible. The solution can scale. 

We have developers, who develop various integration requirements, and we have support. Outside that, we don't have physical users using it. There are about 10 developers in all, that handle various requirements that come along. The support unit is about five people and they are handling the support.

How are customer service and technical support?

We don't deal with IBM directly. There's a local partner of IBM that assists us. We only have a direct relationship with IBM, when the local partner cannot handle a problem. Our contract is designed with IBM in such a way that we have to go through their local partner. In terms of responsiveness, the local partner is good. I wouldn't say excellent, however, they are good in response time. In terms of timeline for issue resolution, TAT for issue resolution, they are fair.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before we went to IBM, we didn't use a different solution, however, we checked in our industry and we checked how people felt about Microsoft middleware, and they didn't have a good experience. It's not robust, the support wasn't strong, et cetera. Therefore, we chose IBM. We were swayed by how other organizations, including banks in Nigeria, were mostly seeing success with IBM.

We are using WSO2 for some applications, however, we do not rely on it completely as it is open-source and if we run into issues we cannot rely on help from any support.

How was the initial setup?

Setting up the solution is not straightforward. It's difficult and complex. We needed assistance in order to manage the process properly. It's not something you can just pick up, and then, run on your own. You need help from a partner, which involves additional costs.

What about the implementation team?

We didn't do it alone. We worked with IBM, and then, IBM nominated a local partner in Nigeria that worked with us to set this up.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The solution is very expensive. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at another solution called WSO2. It is a lot easier to set up. It's easier to use, and it's less expensive. However, the challenge we have with that, is that the support is lacking as it is an open-source application. The support is not so strong. That's the only reservation we had for that. Outside that, we are also using it for some other applications as well.

The prominent other contenders were WebLogic from Oracle, and whatever was provided by Microsoft. Among the three then, IBM came out on top in our assessment and rating. However, with the benefit of the insights we now have, if we were to do the same process again, over five years, WSO2 has done so well, and some other middleware is also doing well. Likely we would not choose IBM if we had to choose again.

What other advice do I have?

We are customers and end-users.

I'd rate the solution around a seven out of ten.

I would advise companies to evaluate and consider the options and whether they make sense vis-a-vis the benefit they hope to derive is worth the while. IBM is not cheap. They need to consider costs and make sure they have internal resources available to them. Those using the solution need to be well trained. Otherwise, the company will end up depending on third parties for everything, and that will drive up the costs further. 

I'd also suggest companies implement such a solution early. Load balancing is very critical in our experience. We didn't implement load balancing immediately, and that affected us. As a company is implementing, it should consider load balancing. Rather than invest on the on-prem, a company should consider the cloud. We did on IBM Unix servers on-prem, and that's pretty expensive.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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