Enterprise service buses hit the road

Cape Clear, Iona, and Sonic suites lead the way toward services-based integration

Sonic’s new Collaboration Server, which focuses on trading-partner integration, may seem redundant. Shouldn’t an ESB natively support your SOA-based business partners? Moreover, the cost of the b-to-b server will double the initial outlay required. Nevertheless, Collaboration Server’s support for protocols such as ebXML and RosettaNet, the capability to build ad hoc run-time bindings, and the ease with which human workflow is integrated make the b-to-b server worthwhile. Best of all, you can manage the Collaboration Server and the ESB within the same management framework.

Sonic maintains a thumb firmly in its proprietary SOA pie. Like Fiorano’s MOM, Sonic’s SonicMQ goes beyond the JMS spec to bring a layer of transparency to variations in client connectivity (point-to-point, store/forward, publish/subscribe, sync/async messaging) and hide the complexities of queue structure, process prioritization, transaction management, and session control. True SOA it’s not, but there’s no denying its suitability for enterprise deployments. Sonic has the stuff for high-volume utilization.

Waving a Checkered Flag
As with all of the EAI frameworks that came before, an ESB must be able to improve access and control over application resources, streamline development, and ultimately reduce integration costs over the long term. Among the products reviewed here, Sonic’s SOA Suite is best equipped to achieve these goals on an enterprise scale.

Cape Clear, with the most open approach to ESB implementation, delivers a good solution for boutique and midsize integration projects in need of strong process orchestration, advanced routing, and open transformation capabilities.

Despite a strong (and potentially costly) reliance on third-party infrastructure, as well as an aging BPML-based orchestration engine, Cordys’ focus on collaboration will appeal to some shops striving to integrate the human factor into enterprise processes. Cordys also provides analytic insight that small groups might find useful.

Fiorano’s ESB offers strong middleware but came off a little too proprietary in the absence of healthy transport and adapter libraries and the lack of support for advanced Web-services specs. Its advantages, though, can be found in areas such as process management and real-time simulation.

The unique per-process-thread licensing of the FusionWare Integration Server makes it a likely candidate for smaller shops who don’t mind the centralized server approach, don’t require visual tools, and don’t need strong analytics.

Iona Artix will bring strong and reliable messaging capabilities to your legacy integration projects at an affordable price, but at the cost of some features, including lifecycle management tools, process orchestration, and advanced routing capabilities.

Like Sonic, PolarLake Integration Suite requires too much Java-centric programming, but supplies good process simulation, some basic QoS, and good enterprise application adaptors. Ultimately, this suite comes up short on activity monitoring and management that would be essential to larger deployments.

Despite a proprietary architecture that is sure to alienate SOA purists, the Sonic SOA Suite is the most powerful, flexible, and scalable ESB among the group. Customers should weigh the risks of vendor lock-in and be prepared to foot additional costs -- both with respect to price and skill-set requirements. Until the Web-services fabric matures enough to support a fully reliable open integration platform, however, or until larger players finally enter the ESB arena, Sonic is best overall for larger-scale SOA implementations in need of high transactional reliability.

In this article, the prices for Sonic Software's Sonic SOA Suite 6.1 and Collaboration Server were originally incorrect. The prices have been corrected.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Features (20.0%)
Management (15.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Security (10.0%)
Scalability (15.0%)
Interoperability (30.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Cape Clear 6.1 8.0 6.0 8.0 7.0 8.0 8.0 7.6
Cordys 4.2 6.0 7.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 7.0 6.5
FioranoESB Suite 3.7 7.0 7.0 6.0 6.0 7.0 7.0 6.8
FusionWare Integration Server 3.0 5.0 4.0 6.0 5.0 5.0 6.0 5.3
Iona Artix 3.0 Advanced 6.0 7.0 7.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 7.6
PolarLake Integration Suite 4.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 5.0 7.0 7.0 6.8
Sonic SOA Suite 6.1 8.0 7.0 7.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.3
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