SOA vs. API-Led Connectivity: What’s the Difference?

By Boomi

For many companies, facilitating the flow of data between digital services comes down to a question of service-oriented architecture vs. API-led connectivity. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) was prominently featured during the software as a service (SaaS) boom of the early 2000s. Now, API (application programming interface)-led connectivity has become a more efficient way for many businesses to expand their digital ecosystems.

Understanding SOA vs. API-led connectivity and how the two build on each other is key in helping businesses optimize their digital infrastructure. Here’s a look at these technologies, and how they stack up against an alternative: integration platform as a service (iPaaS).

What Is a Service-Oriented Architecture?

SOA is an architectural approach designed with common interfacing standards across applications –  making them simple to connect. Instead of developing custom individual point-to-point connections, the SOA framework splits application responsibilities into services that allow them to be loosely coupled through a tool like enterprise service bus (ESB).

SOA was one of the key components in allowing enterprise companies to reduce the amount of information trapped in data silos and create greater visibility across the company. It effectively paved the way for the transition away from monolithic systems to a microservice-driven architecture featuring best-of-breed applications. SOA allowed seamless data sharing between a growing number of SaaS platforms and other data sources. Best of all, its quick-coupling design made integration simple.

Today, many companies still lean on SOA as the primary infrastructure behind their enterprise application integration strategy. Unfortunately, this infrastructure isn’t quite up to the task of handling today’s complex levels of integration and exponential data loads. There are some drawbacks.

The Struggles That Accompany Service-Oriented Architecture

As an architecture methodology, SOA is critical in getting companies to think about the free exchange of data across the enterprise. But, in practice, it has limits. While it’s great for quickly cobbling together applications and services, functionality is a challenge as more complex connections get introduced.

The biggest pitfall in an SOA is the inability to customize how apps share specific data with one another. While SOA enables data exchange, it doesn’t offer the ability to customize interactions at an app-to-app or service-to-service level. This becomes an even more glaring problem as business operations change and different organizational structures demand varying levels of management oversight.

Ultimately, in today’s integration landscape, SOA is more effective as a philosophy than as an operational  framework. In fact, it paved the way for strategies better-equipped to handle a microservices infrastructure, including API-led connectivity.

What Is API-Led Connectivity?

API-led connectivity is an integration philosophy with roots in an SOA framework. It takes the idea of quick-coupling apps and services a step further by determining exactly how these assets interact with one another. It enables more robust connections and data sharing.

API-led connectivity utilizes a three-layer architecture to handle interfaces across system, process, and experience. The introduction of a layered architecture instantly allows more scalability across the enterprise because it dictates specificity in how data is handled, shared, and used. It’s a more seamless solution than something like an ESB-powered SOA, which is liable to become quickly overwhelmed by the flood of data present in modern digital infrastructure.

In essence, it’s less about SOA vs. API-led connectivity and more about how the two build on each other. Think of APIs as the “service” and SOA as the “architecture.” API-led connectivity presents a more advanced way of ensuring service integrity within an enterprise architecture.

API-Led Connectivity and the Shift From SOA to Microservices

SOA has moved from framework to philosophy largely due to the rise of microservices-based architecture. This EAI (enterprise application integration) framework decouples applications and instead, breaks them into independent functions that are enabled by — you guessed it — APIs. Thus, API-led connectivity has been instrumental in helping businesses transition from a more antiquated SOA architecture to a more robust microservices one.

In adopting API-led connectivity, enterprise companies have been able to embrace a host of benefits  made possible by the scalability and agility of a microservice architecture (also known as microservices architecture.) Some include:

  • Improved data security (issue visibility)
  • Reduced strain on IT and DevOps teams
  • Shorter development and deployment timelines
  • Sophisticated compliance and control

Many of these benefits stem from the fact that APIs are easy to develop, reusable, and platform-agnostic in the sense that they support increasingly diversified data sources. In short: enterprise companies need a microservice architecture to enable modern integration and API-led connectivity.

iPaaS Surpasses SOAs and API-Led Connectivity

There’s a progressive approach to integration that companies need to consider as they scale. For organizations with consolidated technology stacks, SOA might work just fine. For agile organizations, API-led connectivity is paramount. That said, there’s an emerging solution that offers the best of both worlds: an integration platform as a service (iPaaS).

An iPaaS delivers the robust level of integration enterprise businesses expect today. It doesn’t just connect applications and services to facilitate data sharing. It can also discover, standardize, transform, and govern data, while facilitating specific actions through workflow automation. In other words, it taps into the comprehensive capabilities of a microservices infrastructure to give businesses the capabilities they need, on their terms. iPaaS is gaining traction with enterprise organizations largely for its ability to handle infrastructure architecture at scale, no matter how complex or diversified.

The best part about an iPaaS? Companies can build, execute, and manage integrations in a low-code environment while ensuring data availability. iPaaS solutions like the Boomi platform are particularly useful for companies making the leap from SOA to a microservices-dominated environment.

To learn more about Boomi and how the debate between SOA vs. API-led connectivity can be put to rest using a sophisticated iPaaS solution, get our whitepaper about why enterprise needs a modern integration platform.