Enterprise service buses hit the road
Cape Clear, Iona, and Sonic suites lead the way toward services-based integration
Striving for completely standards-based integration, Cape Clear eschews the need for proprietary messaging subsystems, like Sonic’s, in favor of open WS-* specifications. Cape Clear also has opted not to supply a J2EE/JMS messaging backbone, choosing instead to mesh with those from BEA Systems, IBM, Sonic, Tibco Software, and others. This approach will change July 26, when Cape Clear 6.2 ships with a fully integrated version of the JBoss JMS.
Version 6.0 supports the WS-ReliableMessaging protocol, a QoS mechanism for building delivery assurances between end points. Version 6.0 also ushered in a BPEL orchestration engine and an Eclipse-based orchestration toolbox for building composite applications from process flows.
The Version 6.1 update makes some notable orchestration enhancements including support for the missing Wait action — necessary to support multibranching, asynchronous processes — and auto-generation of BPEL variables. It also improves the orchestration engine’s ability to recover from system failures, adding database persistence that allows the orchestrator to resume processes exactly where they were left off.
The WS-ReliableMessaging specification has yet to be officially locked down, but Cape Clear is firmly committed to its support. Using a plug-in adapter, Cape Clear can also speak with JMS transports such as SonicMQ and WebSphere MQ.
The Orchestration Studio’s BPEL scripting toolkit is one of the best I’ve used. Using the drag-and-drop building blocks, it was a cinch to define and build up workflows. Debugging and simulation capabilities could use a kick-start, however.
Cape Clear’s monitoring and management tools are sufficient for smaller deployments, but they’re not up to the task of managing large numbers of distributed servers as a group. The admin interface shows a general overview of running processes but offers limited reporting and BI insights. The built-in monitoring and alerting cover the essentials, but they’re inadequate for keeping a close eye on QoS. Services management is also very basic, with no change-management or dependency-checking features.
On the plus side, I drilled down easily through process-activity lists to examine run-time conditions and intervene to give stuck processes a manual push. Thanks to support for XPath and XQuery, which allow dynamic routing based on both document header and body content, Cape Clear handled complex routing and errors without a hitch.
Specifying XSLTs (XSL Transformations) proved straightforward using the included graphical mapper, a wizard-driven tool made for quick and easy mapping of unstructured data and Excel documents, hiding much of the underlying complexity in data translation. I did run into a minor bug in a date-transformation function, however.
Security mechanisms are good but not spectacular. Cape Clear can handle SOAP digital signatures and client-side certificate authorization as well as SAML. Tapping LDAP and Windows NT domain controllers for authorization is not a problem, and JAAS (Java Authentication and Authorization Service) can be plugged in as well. It would be great to see Cape Clear round out the security choices in a future release.
Good load balancing and fail-over management, as well as integration with SNMP and JMX (Java Management Extension)-ready management platforms, make a good case for enterprise deployment. Cape Clear could further strengthen the case by beefing up the management tools and adding some industry-specific process templates or best-practice workflows, such as those in Fiorano.