Progress Sonic and Cape Clear blaze the SOA trail
Duelling ESB suites continue to advance on service-oriented integration, offering a choice between simple and affordable or sophisticated and costly
Progress Sonic's itinerary-based routing brings flexibility to an otherwise fairly hub-and-spoke approach. BPEL state and ESB itinerary headers combine to support some pretty complex acrobatics in long-running, domain-spanning processes.
Progress Sonic shines when it comes to debugging, too. In addition to providing the traditional niceties -- breakpoints, watches, etc. -- the Sonic Workbench now automates the configuration of test containers, and allows introspection of distributed BPEL and ESB routing itineraries and integration services, giving developers visibility into state and variables across distributed testbeds. The ESB process tracker allowed me to save events for later review, if not yet playback. The message editor now allows manipulation of JMS headers, as well as message headers and data.
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Sonic Workbench needs work to ease the developer learning curve and match the strong documentation found in Cape Clear. A basic “Hello World” application is the only tutorial in the Progress Sonic suite. That said, Progress Sonic does provide a series of sample apps to template your startup. Naturally, the company will gladly charge you for consulting services should you require them.
Some developers may be put off by the scope and complexity of the Progress Sonic suite. But any shop involved in implementing a large-scale, distributed SOA (and possessing the commensurate technical expertise) will find that Progress Sonic has precisely the QoS, change management, and scalability safeguards demanded by big rollouts.
The underlying Continuous Availability Architecture delivers transparent failover and easy scalability through the addition of runtime brokers. A number of add-ons (repository services, offloading of XML processing, schema/transform management, etc.) extend and solidify the platform. And strong support for ready-made adapters, from mainframe and packaged apps to b-to-b and ORBs (object request brokers), make Progress Sonic a very attractive choice in transforming legacy investments.
Tooling up for tomorrow
Currently, neither Cape Clear nor Progress Sonic offers much native development support for human interactions. BPEL itself still falls short in this regard, and Cape Clear’s Assembly framework fails to address it directly. Until BPEL offshoots such as BPEL4People begin to mature, plan to address human interfaces and workflow needs with custom tooling.
Other improvements would be welcome in both products. One item on my wish list would be simulation in debugging. A second would be support for WSIT (Web Services Interoperability Technologies), which would help bridge Java and the WCF (Windows Communication Foundation). A third would be support for JAXB (Java Architecture for XML Binding).
Nevertheless, these wishes should be viewed as just that -- wishes. I don't consider them knocks against either vendor’s current offering. On the contrary, I’m encouraged to see both Cape Clear ESB 7.5 and Progress Sonic ESB Product Family 7.5 growing with the times, changing to address real-world requirements as we scale SOA beyond simple data exchange to the next plateau.