Bungee jumping into Quarkus: blindfolded but happy

A year ago I started with a couple of friends a new project based on Quarkus to create a visual editor for integrations called Kaoto.

As responsible of the backend side, I obviously chose Java to do it. Coming from the Java 8 world with shy traces of Java 11, I decided to jump directly to Quarkus on Java 17 (unstable at the time) with Reactive and explore the serverless possibilities while, at the same time, keep the over-engineering and the over-fanciness of new features as reasonable as possible.

On this article I will discuss the good and the bad of this experience. I am not a Quarkus developer, I am a developer that used Quarkus. And as any average developer that starts with a new technology, I obviously skipped the documentation and just bungee jumped into the framework, blindfolded and without safe nets.

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Selecting your orchestration conductor

When we are integrating different components and services in our software architecture, the first step is to select a good orchestration framework. On this opinionated article I will present my criteria to decide which is the right framework.

Riding the Enterprise Service Bus

As you compose services, you will notice the need for an Enterprise Service Bus to communicate with each other. But an EBS can be useless if you don’t have good ETL (extract, transform, load) tools along with it to manipulate our data. The same way that an ETL without a proper routing system can leave us orphaned.

We need to route messages and events and at the same time make sure data transformations take place so different endpoints with varied protocols and formats can interact with each other. That’s where integration frameworks come in.

The Enterprise Integration Patterns can help developers on both tasks: by providing data transformations between outputs and inputs and offering different routing strategies.

Orchestration Functionality

Our framework should be able to support not only the Enterprise Integration Patterns, but also a wide range of protocols and data formats.

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Usability

Easiness of use, specially if we have complex use cases to maintain, is relevant to keep our architecture clean. This usability should never be in detriment of the functionality or the extensibility of the framework. We want our framework to interact with a varied range of components and services.

Sacrificing features in favor of user experience will make you hit faster the ceiling of what you can do.

Multiple Orchestration Languages

Related to the easiness of use is the language we need to use to build the integration routes. We don’t want to be tied to a specific language like Java or Python. There are frameworks that allow you to build the integration route in different languages.

When our orchestration builders come from different backgrounds, or are not very tech savvy, being able to integrate on different languages may come in handy. We want them to feel comfortable in whatever language they need to orchestrate.

Tutorials and documentation

It was never the case when good usability made up for a bad documentation. We need tutorials, manuals, helpers,… Both for users and developers. And of course, we will want to have some reference to fall back when something doesn’t work as expected and we need to find why.

Customization

Sometimes we need to use some data format or connect to some service not currently supported by the framework. Whether if we do it ourselves or hire someone to do it, can the existing functionality be extended to support them?

Dependencies size

We don’t want to drag a heavy dependency to our architecture. But not only smaller in size, we also want a framework that will use a light footprint over our hardware, while at the same time, it doesn’t drag our performance.

A smaller dependency usually means less source code that can introduce bugs to your software too.

Technical Support

Maybe we don’t need help, but what if we have a problem? Can we hire someone for technical support? Are there developers to hire to implement our custom features?

Having a wide range of companies offering services around our framework will greatly improve our experience in the long run.

License

It doesn’t matter how many companies are supporting the framework if the license is restricted. Only a software with a FOSS license will warrant you will not be tied to the whims or misfortunes of any external force or private company.

If you have been following me, this will not come as a surprise. You know I already have a preferred choice that scores high on all these criteria: Apache Camel.

Kaoto: Integrate without limits

I would like to present you with an ETL and integration editor Rachel and I have been working on for the past year with the initial help of Zineb: Kaoto.

What is Kaoto?

Kaoto is an integration editor to create and deploy integrations in a low-code way and no-code way based on Apache Camel. It combines a source code editor and a drag and drop graphical space synchronized with each other. It can be run both as standalone and as a service (SaaS).

With the no-code mode, the user can build the entire integration orchestration with the drag and drop function. Kaoto has a step catalog with a list of all available building blocks that the users may want to transform data or integrate with services.

The source code will be available for users curious to know what they are going to deploy. But in no case they have to understand or even see that code.

Example of building block drag and drop

With the low code mode, users can learn how to create integrations and, at the same time, control what they are deploying. They can use both the drag and drop and the source code editor, that will autocomplete what the user won’t or don’t know how to write. Meanwhile the graphical space will show the integration being built and the drag and drop will still be available for them to complete or accelerate the development.

Example of low code integrations.

Kaoto can help users start with Apache Camel and slowly build their knowledge. All the source code generated is clean and viewable in any IDE.

Customizing Kaoto

Each building block type can have its own microfrontend. This is useful when you add your own building blocks to your Kaoto instance. But it can also help adapt Kaoto to different kinds of users, hiding or extending certain details important for each use-case. Extensions can be manuals and helpers for Kaoto.

When used as a service, the extensions and the list of available building blocks are settings that can be stored in the cloud. Therefore, administrator users can modify this configuration, which will refresh live in the users playgrounds. In addition, as this configuration can be in the cloud, different users can share the configuration. This can help organizations accommodate different groups of users, offering different configurations depending on the profile.

What is on the roadmap?

We started the development focused on Kamelet Bindings, but we soon realized we could add more languages. Edition of Apache Camel routes (in yaml form) and Kamelet definitions are next in development queue. We are also working on translating from other integration languages to Camel DSL. This can help users migrate to Apache Camel.

We will soon have one-click support for cloud-native Apache Camel deployments via Camel-K. Matej is close to having an operator for Kubernetes clusters which will simplify even more the installation of Kaoto in the cloud.

You can quickly test it via docker as described on the quickstart. Make sure your docker images have access to internet to be able to access the default remote configuration!

You can find more information on the webpage of the project.

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