One of the important building blocks in helping IBM construct its Systems Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Over the past year or so, IBM has been delivering products that would help constitute an ESB, but delivery of all of the necessary pieces will not come until late this year. A key figure in helping Big Blue put those pieces in place is Bob Sutor, IBM's director of Web Services Technology for IBM's WebSphere. In his current role, Sutor is in charge of overseeing the future direction of the WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Studio product lines. Sutor sat down with Editor at Large Ed Scannell to discuss IBM's on-going efforts to create an ESB.
InfoWorld: It seems that IBM has been downplaying an EnterpriseService Bus as part of its longer-term Systems Oriented Architecture plans?
Sutor: It will evolve. But to pretend it is something new, something we have to wait for standards to come along is wrong. We have some of the pieces today that customers can use to start to build with. The way I look at it, an ESB is not something you buy off the shelf because everyone will have a slightly different one. You could start with just two applications servers. Is that an ESB? I could argue that it is. You have the connectivity, ability to program the end points and do data transformation. You could add MQ that adds reliability and asynchronous communications. You could add brokers, which adds intelligence to the backbone so you can make better choices about where to route things.
InfoWorld: When might IBM deliver a full ESB?
Sutor: The plan now is to deliver something in the second half of the year.
InfoWorld: When might you complete an ESB?
Sutor: Well, you can draw pretty pictures of ESBs like a nice big pipe with all these things plugging into it. But the actual ESB is going to be a combination of several things and these things will vary by customer. Probably no two users will have exactly the same ESB. A list of such things could include an enterprise messaging backbone like MQ. You could include the Internet, i.e. as a transport, you could include brokers of different capabilities --big brokers that can transform everything to everything else, or the smaller ones that are more specialized for certain protocols. But with app servers, once they plug into the bus, in some sense it becomes part of the bus.
InfoWorld: What is the level of interest among users for ESBs?
Sutor: We talk to a lot of financial services companies and when we bring this up they say, "Well, we are building this anyway, so don't tell us this is something new." Think of two banks that merge -- they have all these applications. Merrill Lynch, for instance, has 23,000 mainframe applications. Two banks merge and they each have their own infrastructures for how these things could be used. They somehow have to bridge these backbones, but they also want to eliminate redundancies. How do they do that? You start deciding, these are the standardized interfaces I will use for certain types of services, and then you start combining things and then have them all start pointing to the same one. Once that happens, I can start taking some off line.
InfoWorld: Are ESBs still an integral part of achieving your longer term SOA goals? Has it been growing in importance or decreasing?