Choose Workflows or Application Integration

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Although Application Integration and Workflows share some similar capabilities, they are targeted for different uses, and are delivered differently.

If you're integrating business systems or implementing a business process, consider using Application Integration. If you're orchestrating services for application development, pipelines, or infrastructure automation, consider using Workflows. You can also use both together; for example, to orchestrate a pipeline that updates an integrated third-party business system.

The following use case-based guidance, examples, and diagrams can help you choose a solution.

Use Application Integration

If you are an enterprise architect, integration developer, or business analyst, who needs a way to connect, map, transform, and integrate data between business systems like Salesforce, ServiceNow, or a Cloud SQL database:

  • Application Integration is ideal for integrating applications that have differing data structures and for exchanging data. It provides built-in transformation functions that let you convert the source application data to fit the destination application schema.

  • Consider using Application Integration for real-time business transactions, or processing business transactions in small batches. Or, if you have existing Google Cloud applications and are facing connectivity challenges as the result of a large number of SaaS applications.

  • Application Integration offers a drag-and-drop visual interface that lets you create an entire integration flow with little or no code. Connectors also allow you to call and perform operations on various entities.

If you need a connector that can be used to integrate and map data between a Google Cloud service such as BigQuery and a third-party service such as ServiceNow:

  • An Application Integration connector hides the complexity of application-specific data structures and protocols. It provides a standard interface to perform create, read, update, and delete operations on application data.
  • For example, a Cloud Spanner connection lets you insert, read, update and delete rows in a Spanner table and use the resulting output in an integration. Or, the Oracle DB connector lets you connect to an Oracle database instance and perform the supported database operations.
  • See the list of supported connectors.

Example: Using Application Integration to map and extract data

The following diagram shows an example of using Application Integration to map and extract data from an external system:

Data mapping and extraction using Application Integration

A Salesforce trigger is subscribed to the Salesforce opportunity channel. Data changes to the Salesforce opportunity invokes Application Integration which extracts the status of the Salesforce opportunity. If the status is closed, the integration extracts the opportunity details and writes the data to a Cloud SQL instance using a connector. If there is a data change, but the status remains open, the integration sends a message to a Pub/Sub topic using a connector.

Use Workflows

If you are a developer, data engineer, or cloud platform team, who needs a way to orchestrate services together to build applications, process automations, or implement data and machine learning pipelines:

  • Workflows is ideal if you want to separate the logic that sequences and links your services together from your core business logic. A workflow can perform a sequence of operations across multiple systems, waiting for all operations to complete, and it can be event-driven.

  • Consider using Workflows if you want to write less code to specify your application infrastructure and execute loosely-coupled services in an order that you define: a workflow. These workflows can combine the services of any HTTP-based API, making service dependencies explicit and observable end-to-end.

  • A workflow consists of a series of steps described using the Workflows syntax, and can be written in either YAML or JSON. Workflows standard library functions and built-in environment variables allow you to easily construct arguments and process responses. Connectors can be used to interact with other Google Cloud products.

If you need a connector that can be used to simplify calling and integrating with other Google Cloud APIs such as Cloud Functions or Firestore within a workflow:

  • Workflows publishes lightweight, serverless connectors that can be used to connect to other Google Cloud APIs within a workflow, and to integrate your workflows with those Google Cloud products. They simplify calling services because they handle the formatting of requests for you, and provide methods and arguments so that you don't need to know the details of a Google Cloud API.
  • For example, you can create a workflow that use the Cloud Translation API connector to translate files to other languages in asynchronous batch mode and save the results in a Cloud Storage bucket. Or, you can execute a workflow that runs multiple BigQuery query jobs serially, one after the other.
  • Supported connectors include a connector to Application Integration so that you can use both products together; in this document, see Use Application Integration and Workflows together. For example, you can create a workflow that triggers and waits for an integration, or any other operation such as updating a Salesforce instance.
  • See the list of supported connectors.

Example: Using Workflows for lightweight service orchestration

The following diagram shows an example of using Workflows to orchestrate services:

Service orchestration using Workflows

When a file is uploaded to a Cloud Storage bucket, a Cloud Function triggers Workflows to execute a workflow: text is recognized using the Cloud Natural Language API; images and videos are recognized using the Cloud Vision API and Cloud Video Intelligence API; and tags are saved and written to Firestore.

Use Application Integration and Workflows together

You can use Application Integration and Workflows together to orchestrate applications and services. Workflows supports a connector to Application Integration so that you can use both products together. For example, you can perform an action in a third-party business system from Workflows using Application Integration. Or, you can connect with custom development from Application Integration using Workflows.

Example: Using Application Integration and Workflows to perform an action in a third-party business system

In the following diagram, a refund for digital content is requested through a mobile app. Workflows removes the content and initiates a refund process in Application Integration, using heuristic methods and potentially human approval. Based on the result from Application Integration, Workflows either grants a refund or restores the content.

Orchestration using Application Integration and Workflows together

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