Enterprise service buses

Our reviewer finds them powerful and flexible -- but still in need of polish

Few things are as fascinating in this industry as watching a new product category take shape. Multiple vendors enter the field, each delivering its interpretation of the product’s concept. Over time, though, the vendors appropriate one another’s best ideas until a certain set of features becomes common to all.

This week’s cover story examines the enterprise service bus in its infancy.

The ESB is, of course, the new integration platform that handles messaging, development, data transformation, and process orchestration in an SOA (service-oriented architecture) environment. Senior Contributing Editor James R. Borck took seven packages from companies for which the ESB is a central product for a test-drive to weigh the merits of the category’s early entrants.

At this stage, each package has perfected at least part of the puzzle. Cape Clear 6.1 has the best drag-and-drop tool for crafting BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) workflows. Cordys 4.2 can be configured and managed through a browser-accessible portal. FioranoESB Suite 3.7 provides a great tool for adding functions to data translation, according to Borck. FusionWare’s Integration Server 3.0 has a well-designed wizard for building a project framework from scratch.

Iona Artix 3.0 Advanced is especially strong at tying legacy systems into its ESB. PolarLake Integration Suite 4.0 has features that will be attractive to financial services companies. And Borck reserves his highest praise for Sonic’s SOA Suite 6.1, which -- although it uses a proprietary messaging backbone -- was judged strongest for enterprise installations.

Meanwhile, the larger vendors will not be shut out. BEA’s service bus is part of the integrated AquaLogic suite of SOA products that launched last month. And IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle either have or are working on their own implementations. From the buyer’s perspective, though, it will be nice when these products become a little more standardized. In the meantime, we hope Borck’s advice will help you choose.

Those who, like me, are interested in the semantic Web should make sure to catch Jon Udell’s column this week. I already find myself heading reflexively for Wikipedia.com whenever I need a highly up-to-the-minute encyclopedia account. Jon predicts that the social tagging phenomenon will transform Web indexing in the same way.

Finally, after two and a half years of contributing regularly to this column, it’s time to turn it over to the capable of hands of our Editor in Chief, Steve Fox, who has shared this space for 18 months and whose wit and insight always light up the page. So starting next week, you’ll be hearing from Steve weekly -- and will definitely be in good hands!

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