Enterprise service buses hit the road
Cape Clear, Iona, and Sonic suites lead the way toward services-based integration
Iona Artix 3.0 Advanced
One of the biggest names in legacy integration is Ireland’s Iona Technologies. Not surprisingly, Iona brings to its ESB a strong feature set for mainframe transaction bridging, MOM-based systems, and CORBA transports, as well as its Adaptive Runtime Technology plug-in architecture and a new J2EE service connector.
What impressed me most about Artix is its ready adaptability for old-school protocols such as IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol) and CICS, and support for security services such as single sign-on. Iona is truly a top-tier player in these respects.
The new Eclipse-based development environment could benefit from more wizard-driven shortcuts like the one for pulling WSDL out of old Cobol Copybooks. Although a bit buggy, it does a wonderful job.
In addition to supporting port- and protocol-based routing, Artix can be configured to take routing directives from message headers but not yet message content. Artix supports dynamic services binding through a central directory and repository called the Locator service.
Data format translations within the bus are performed directly, without first having to convert data into an intermediate language such as XML, speeding throughput but also creating hard-coded, application-specific interfaces. Artix supports XSLT scripts, as well.
Security underpinnings are good. Artix supports LDAP and Microsoft Active Directory, ACLs, single sign-on, and role-based authorizations, as well as Kerberos authentication and WS-Security.
Note, however, that this platform fails to implement process orchestration and activity monitoring. For simple, stateless transactions, I linked together services using the included Chain Builder, a plug-in for constructing services and transformations into preformed process definitions. For processes of any complexity, though, you’ll want to layer on third-party BPM.
Clearly Iona has chosen to focus on fundamentals, but a few other additions would help to round out the Artix package. These include real-time dashboards, tighter services version control, the ability to monitor dependencies among services to better facilitate change management, and better plug-ins for enterprise applications from vendors such as SAP and Oracle. Customers in financial services, health care, and other verticals would also benefit from best-practices process templates.
Provisions for transactional reliability and integrity, however, are top notch. Artix supports session management, two-phase commit (XA/2PC) for long-running processes, and the WS-AtomicTransaction and WS-Context specifications. It is solidly fortified with redundancy, load balancing, and hot-swap of services, and it offers a run time that can be deployed on almost any platform — from IBM AIX and z/OS to Linux and Windows. And the QoS features are among the best I’ve seen in an ESB implementation.
Naturally, such creature comforts (or enterprise necessities) come at a price. The per-CPU run-time licensing associated with each distributed container means that large deployments won’t come cheap, especially when you consider that a good number of enterprise “extras,” such as operational logging and management system adapters come at additional cost.
On the other hand, you get what you pay for. Committed to modernizing old-world systems with the new, Iona’s Artix 3.0 Advanced does what it does very well. This package is a heavyweight contender for addressing large-scale system integration projects in a services-oriented way.