API Management vs. ESB: Similarities and Differences

4 minute read | 10 May 2022

By Boomi

Today’s businesses tend to use multiple platforms to share data and communicate instructions and requests. Most commonly, these are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Human Resource Management (HRM) platforms.

For the sake of efficiency, companies need to find ways for these platforms to interface with one another. The two most popular methods of accomplishing this are the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and Application Program Interface (API).

While there are some similarities between ESBs and APIs, it’s important to note they are not interchangeable structures. For a variety of reasons, businesses generally opt for API management to improve their enterprise connectivity. That’s because it’s more scalable, flexible, and robust.

It’s important to determine which method of connecting platforms is right for your business. With that in mind, let’s look at API management vs. ESB to better understand the nuances and benefits of each.

What is API Management?

API management is the set of processes used to design, distribute, analyze, and control APIs that connect an enterprise’s various applications and data. The purpose of API management is to ensure efficient data sharing.

What is an ESB?

An ESB is a platform used to integrate various enterprise systems and applications. An ESB replaces point-to-point communication, which is not easy to scale and can be overly complex.

With an ESB, an enterprise can achieve communication between multiple platforms that speak different computing languages. The ESB translates messages from one system for the purposes of the recipient.

Companies use ESBs to simplify integrating a variety of IT systems, remove the need for multiple services that can translate those digital messages and implement features that ensure greater scalability and resiliency for an IT environment.

API Management vs. ESB: The Differences

At first glance, the descriptions of API management and ESBs may sound quite similar. However, there are some key differences you must be aware of to understand the role that each plays, and which platform integration option will be the best solution for your enterprise.

First, API management tools tend to have many more features and capabilities than what you would find with an ESB. These enhanced capabilities are the primary reasons why businesses tend to opt for API management.

Also, API management is significantly more flexible and optimized for newer technologies.

Finally, ESBs use an exposure-based model, while API management solutions use a consumption-based model.

The main difference between the two is that API management is a bit more evolved and versatile, which makes it the better choice for enhancing enterprise connectivity for companies that have specific needs for flexibility and scalability.

Features of API Management and ESBs

One can further identify the differences in API management vs. ESBs by looking at the additional features that come with API management. These include:

  • Security and authentication that protect APIs from unwanted access
  • Limited call rate and number to prevent crashes and system overloads
  • The ability to generate API keys for developers
  • Automatically sending traffic to the best servers
  • Creation and sharing of API documentation
  • Monetizing APIs used by customers and third parties
  • Tracking analytics to measure performance over time and to find/resolve issues

In many cases, ESBs also are designed to run on-premises with legacy infrastructure. This has started to change with some ESBs now capable of integrating cloud applications. However, API management has a significant head start in this area and is generally considered the best option for businesses attempting to integrate both legacy infrastructure and cloud/SaaS applications and data.

As more businesses increasingly turn to online services and applications, ESBs will continue to become more outdated. They were not designed to support the new technology that enterprises are embracing in today’s cloud-first environment. This means API management is the best choice for businesses that are embracing digital transformation and aim to remain on the cutting edge of technology.

Boomi believes that businesses can achieve intelligent connectivity with a modern integration platform that unifies today’s complicated technical landscapes and drives digital transformation initiatives. API management is a key component of the Boomi Platform.


To see the full capabilities of the Boomi platform, watch our API Management demo and get started on the path of achieving integration with ease.