TIBCO Cloud Integration: at the intersection of two integration roads

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TIBCO Cloud Integration is a Digital Integration Platform that’s hosted on the TIBCO Cloud. It serves two principal audiences: ‘citizen integrators’ and integration specialists. It’s also a seamless part of a broader TIBCO integration capability set.

Top takeaways

Going back to TIBCO’s roots

For well over a decade after its founding in 1987, TIBCO was primarily focused on solving integration-related problems for its customers. However following its IPO in 1999, TIBCO began to diversify well beyond this core focus – with mixed results. Eventually, the company couldn’t sustain its performance, and in 2014 it transitioned back into private hands.

Since then, TIBCO has confounded expectations about what happens to technology firms that go private. It’s stripped back its product portfolio, but it has regained – and in fact, boosted – its R&D momentum. The company is returning to its digital business infrastructure focus, with clear investments in cloud platforms and open-source technologies.

TIBCO Cloud Integration: at the intersection of two roads

TIBCO Cloud Integration is part of a bigger integration picture from TIBCO. It’s at the intersection of two development roadmaps for the company.

The first is the creation of a multi-capability managed PaaS (TIBCO Cloud, which also includes case management application development, messaging, analytics capabilities and more). The second is the creation of an open, flexible integration technology portfolio that supports the open deployment of integration apps on-premise (via BusinessWorks), on the TIBCO Cloud (TIBCO Cloud Integration), and on ‘any cloud’ (via BusinessWorks Container Edition).

Investigate TIBCO Cloud integration for its openness, and for the broader picture it enables

TIBCO Cloud Integration is one element of a larger integration technology portfolio, but nevertheless, TIBCO has done a good job of designing the portfolio such that each element supports a clearly-defined set of use cases – and TIBCO Cloud Integration provides a space where multiple groups with their own needs can collaborate to deliver on digital integration projects.

TIBCO Cloud Integration is very worthy of consideration if you’re already a TIBCO customer and have a growing need to embrace new cloud services and applications. However it’s also very worthy of consideration if you’re not an existing TIBCO customer, but are looking for a more strategic PaaS investment.

TIBCO: born to integrate

An integration specialist since the days of EAI

TIBCO Software was originally founded in 1987 as Teknekron Software Systems; its first product was TIB (the Teknekron Information Bus) – a publish-subscribe messaging middleware platform. For well over a decade, the company was primarily focused on solving integration-related problems for its customers.

Diversification followed TIBCO’s launch as a public company in 1999 – it acquired and built products that took it far beyond its core focus. Eventually, the company couldn’t sustain its performance, and in 2014 TIBCO Software transitioned back into private hands with its purchase by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for $4.3bn.

TIBCO is confounding lots of people’s expectations about what happens to technology firms that go private: it’s stripped back its product portfolio, yes, but it has regained – and in fact, boosted – its R&D momentum. The company is returning to its digital business infrastructure focus, and as part of this has finally embraced cloud computing and open-source software distribution. Both of these come together in TIBCO’s Digital Integration Platform capability.

Introducing TIBCO Cloud with integration

TIBCO launched its Cloud Integration service – the focus of this report – in May 2016, along with a low-code graphical process application development platform called TIBCO Cloud Live Apps. The introduction of TIBCO Cloud Live Apps and TIBCO Cloud Integration also saw the launch of the underlying TIBCO Cloud platform – a common set of service and account management, security and administration capabilities that TIBCO has built to underpin a growing portfolio of services. Already, TIBCO has added Messaging and Spotfire (analytics) to the TIBCO Cloud portfolio; other services are planned.

An expanded integration story – on premise, TIBCO Cloud, any cloud

TIBCO Cloud Integration is one part of a larger integration story (just as TIBCO Cloud Live Apps is one part of a larger process automation story). The broader TIBCO integration portfolio now spans:

  • Integration on the TIBCO Cloud. This is where TIBCO Cloud Integration fits in.
  • On-premise integration. TIBCO continues to develop and support BusinessWorks, its heritage application integration platform.
  • Integration hosted on other cloud platforms. BusinessWorks Container Edition provides full BusinessWorks functionality, and is deployable to Pivotal Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, AWS Elastic Container Service, Azure Container Service and any platform implementing Docker and Kubernetes.

Crucially, both TIBCO Cloud Integration and BusinessWorks Container Edition can run integration flows built in BusinessWorks 6.x (the current round of product versions).

In addition to this core of products, TIBCO also offers Mashery, an API Management platform providing developer portal infrastructure, API security, traffic control and rate limiting, scaling and caching, reporting and analytics tools.

Inside TIBCO Cloud Integration

A platform straddling two audiences

TIBCO Cloud Integration is a Digital Integration Platform that’s hosted on the TIBCO Cloud (as mentioned above). It serves two principal audiences:

  • Citizen integrators’. The Web Integrator graphical design environment, shipped as an integral part of TIBCO Cloud Integration, enables non-specialists to be involved in the process of integrating applications, platforms and data sources. Integration flows can be used to implement methods of published APIs (see below).
  • Integration specialists. As an alternative to using the graphical Web Integrator tool, customers can use TIBCO Business Studio – Cloud Edition (a variant of the tools that ship with its heavy-duty BusinessWorks application integration platform) to develop new BusinessWorks integration applications, or convert pre-existing integration applications, and deploy them to TIBCO Cloud Integration. Once hosted there, BusinessWorks code can be invoked and integrated just the same way as integration flows graphically designed with Web Integrator. Specialists are also offered simple tools (API Modeler) to help them model and deploy REST-based APIs; they can also generate ‘mock apps’ that implement those APIs for testing purposes, and generate outline Node.js code for implementing those APIs.

In the sections below we examine each of these tools in turn, as there are some important differences in the design experience and capabilities on offer.

Design tools

Web Integrator

Web Integrator is a drag-and-drop design experience that allows non-specialist ‘citizen integrators’ to create and edit integration apps by graphically assembling integration activities into ‘flows’. Every app has one or more flows. Flows can include branches based on defined conditions that you define on fields that have been output from previous activities (see figure 1); you can also enlist custom functions (written using Project Flogo code – see below).

You can choose to have your flows invoked when a particular REST trigger is fired (when an external app or system requests that specific resource); or on a timed schedule; or based on a Connector event (see below).

Web Integrator app flows can work with complex datatypes: as well as strings, dates, integers and so on, you can work with arrays of arrays and arrays of objects. A Mapper tool – available to configure information flow from one activity to the next, or when defining a branching condition – provides a decent level of flexibility in transforming data structures, types and values. A broad range of data manipulation functions is supported, and you can easily iterate over arrays – making it easy to (for example) serialise an array into a single string value.

A relatively limited set of prebuilt connectors is available within Web Integrator. There are prebuilt connectors for TIBCO Cloud Live Apps (automatically creating cases in Live Apps), as well as for Marketo (create, retrieve and update leads, opportunities, etc.); Salesforce (listen for changes, create, read, update and delete records); Salesforce Wave Analytics (upload data, delete records, check job status); SugarCRM (listen for changes, create, read, update and delete records); and Zuora (create subscriptions, get subscription information, etc.)

Figure 1: The Web Integrator UI, showing flow branching

Source: TIBCO

Business Studio – Cloud Edition

Business Studio – Cloud Edition is a variant of the Eclipse-based Business Studio tools that technical developers use when building integration applications for TIBCO BusinessWorks. Here, you’ll create integration applications locally on a development workstation, generate archive (EAR) files, then and deploy those archive files remotely to a TIBCO Cloud Integration instance.

With Business Studio, you specify integration applications from sets of modules. Within an application, a master ‘application module’ specifies one or more integration processes that orchestrate integration activities; additional shared modules package up shared libraries of code referenced in those orchestrations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more sophistication in what you can design with the technical Business Studio than in what you can design with Web Integrator. For example, specialists using Business Studio can define and reuse subprocesses, and specify invocation of subprocesses in a number of different ways; additionally, integration logic for a given situation can be spread across two or more processes, with their execution automatically co-ordinated at runtime.

As in Web Integrator, processes are composed of sequences of activities. Activities are connected by transitions, but unlike in Web Integrator, transitions can drive execution to multiple activities (or activity groups, where groups control transaction processing logic) in parallel. There’s also the option to create dedicated error-handling transitions and flows.

Again as in Web Integrator, a mapper component helps you specify transformations between data passed into and out of activities. With Business Studio, though, you’ll use XPath expressions to specify conditions and transformations on the XML documents that flow through your integration applications’ processes.

A much larger set of plugins is available with Business Studio – Cloud Edition than is available with Web Integrator. These plugins give more technical integration developers preconfigured access to external platforms, data sources and apps. The list includes plugins for Amazon S3, Marketo, Amazon SQS, Amazon SNS, Cloud FTL (TIBCO Messaging), Email, JDBC, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, MQTT, NetSuite, Salesforce, ServiceNow, sFTP, TIBCO MDM and Workday. Integration apps using these plugins will work unchanged within the TIBCO Cloud Integration runtime environment.

Business Studio also provides a helpful set of application testing and debugging facilities.

API Modeler

API Modeler is a separate web-based tool integrated into the TIBCO Cloud Integration design experience. API Modeler makes it straightforward to design the structures of REST-based APIs (or import API specifications as YAML or JSON, then edit them), and then elect to implement each API using:

  • A Mock app – in other words, a collection of function stubs that return predefined values when associated API methods are called.
  • A node.js app – the API Modeler can create a node.js skeleton for you, which you can ‘fill in’ using your favourite IDE.
  • A Web Integrator app.
  • An Integration App – the API specification can be used by TIBCO Business Studio – Cloud Edition.

Extending the environment with Project Flogo

Under the covers, Web Integrator is built on an open-source microservices orchestration framework, created by TIBCO, called Project Flogo. Flogo is very lightweight, written in the Go language, and ships with a web-based IDE (the Flogo Web UI) that enables you to author applications using JSON. Importantly, because Web Integrator is built using Flogo, anyone can easily build extensions to Web Integrator, submit them for review, and have them hosted in a TIBCO Cloud Integration instance. If you create integration activities using Flogo, you can also use those activities within a Web Integrator app definition.

You can find more information about Project Flogo at www.flogo.io.

Deployment environment

TIBCO Cloud Integration apps are deployed to a TIBCO Cloud instance, but each instance can have multiple deployment environments configured (TIBCO calls these ‘sandboxes’). Personal sandboxes are private to each individual TIBCO Cloud Integration user; operational sandboxes are for running production apps. As a team builds TIBCO Cloud Integration apps, apps are promoted from personal sandboxes to operational sandboxes (of which there can be more than one). There’s no limit to the number of sandboxes you can set up.

To ensure that in-development apps are not publicly available, or to restrict the invocation of integration apps to other TIBCO Cloud services, you can configure the ‘endpoint visibility’ of each sandbox within your instance. Sandboxes with public endpoint visibility make their apps available through a publicly-accessible URL; sandboxes with user visibility can only be accessed within TIBCO Cloud; and by you personally; and sandboxes with organisation visibility can only be accessed within TIBCO Cloud, but can be accessed by any registered user within your organisation.

Regardless of whether you’ve chosen to implement your apps using Web Integrator, Business Studio or node.js, you can configure your TIBCO Cloud Integration instance with a VPN connection to your own datacentre. This feature currently supports Cisco AnyConnect SSL VPNs and Juniper SSL VPNs.

Within your TIBCO Cloud Integration instance, depending on the nature of your license, you can choose to scale (up or down) the resources that individual applications will consume. Through the administration console, you simply select how many instances of a given app you want to execute (choosing ‘zero’ stops the application; choosing a non-zero number starts any app that’s not running). TIBCO Cloud Integration automatically restarts failed app instances.

When you deploy an app within TIBCO Cloud Integration, if you have licensed the Enterprise Edition (see below) you can elect to publish your app’s associated REST endpoint to TIBCO Mashery. From that point, TIBCO Mashery will publish and manage access to the associated API.

The TIBCO Cloud is delivered on AWS infrastructure. You can choose to have your TIBCO Cloud Integration instance in one of three geographic zones: US, Europe and Australia.

Monitoring and reporting

TIBCO Cloud Integration provides a simple performance dashboard that shows the resources your instance is using and how it’s responding to demand. In addition, it’s possible to view real-time and historical application logs.

Packaging and pricing

TIBCO offers Cloud Integration in four editions licensed based on applications implemented (not on number of users):

  • API Modeler. For $10 / month, the API Modeler edition includes the ability to use the graphical API Modeler tool, but nothing else.
  • For $450 / month, the Base edition also allows you to implement up to two mock apps, four Web Integrator apps, and two Node.js apps. The prebuilt Web Integrator connectors and the available connection plugins for Business Studio – Cloud Edition are included.
  • For $3,699 / month, the Professional edition allows you to implement up to 20 mock apps, 20 Web Integrator apps, 20 Node.js apps and up to 15 Integration apps (applications created in BusinessWorks Studio – Cloud Edition). As above, connectors and plugins are included.
  • With this edition, you’re able to implement up to 40 mock apps, 40 Web Integrator apps and 40 Node.js apps. You can also implement up to 25 Integrations apps. Pricing is available on application. As above, connectors and plugins are included.

TIBCO also offers a 30-day free, full-featured trial of Cloud Integration.

Recommendation

As discussed above, TIBCO Cloud Integration is one element of a larger integration technology portfolio. Nevertheless TIBCO has done a good job of designing the portfolio such that each element supports a clearly-defined set of use cases – and TIBCO Cloud Integration provides a space where multiple groups with their own needs can collaborate to deliver on digital integration projects. What’s more, the ability for BusinessWorks 6.x integration applications to be deployed on-premise, on the TIBCO Cloud or on another IaaS option (through BusinessWorks Container Edition) gives existing TIBCO integration customers with significant investments multiple future roadmap options.

Consequently, TIBCO Cloud Integration is obviously very worthy of consideration if you’re already a TIBCO customer and have a growing need to embrace new cloud services and applications. However it’s also very worthy of consideration if you’re not an existing TIBCO customer, but are looking for a more strategic PaaS investment. This is because TIBCO Cloud Integration also sits seamlessly within a broader portfolio of digital business platform capabilities in the TIBCO Cloud – including case management, messaging and analytics.

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