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The SOA generation gap: New breed of vendors marry SOA with Web services

Apr 05, 20063 mins
Application IntegrationData Center

* SOA vendors mix SOA and Web services for interoperability and to lower cost

In my last newsletter, I discussed the growing generation gap between Enterprise Service Bus platforms from established vendors such as Oracle and Tibco and the new breed of modular products being developed by a new generation of vendors. Most traditional ESB products have evolved from earlier Enterprise Application Integration platforms. While they serve as an indispensable bridge between EAI and Web services-based service-oriented architecture, they are based on monolithic code sets with roots in legacy software platforms.

Today, this new breed of vendors, and some established ones, are bringing products to market that go beyond simply paying lip service to the benefits of SOA. These platforms are themselves SOA or Web services implementations, and reap all of the advantages of modular, standards-based architectures, including ease of maintenance and extensibility.

Traditional coding techniques are inflexible and complex to modify. With solution sets incorporating potentially millions of lines of code, modifications are time-consuming and expensive. For this reason, many of today’s largest ESB vendors are struggling with the titanic task of building SOA concepts and Web services support into huge technology stacks.

The new generation of SOA vendors is leveraging SOA and/or Web services for the same reasons their customers are – to build in interoperability, lower the cost of adding new functionality, and leverage standards. Some, such as Altiris and Microsoft, are building very flexible systems over Web services-based componentized architectures such as .Net. Others, such as WebMethods, are developing their products from scratch as SOA-based or, in the case of AmberPoint’s SOA Management System 5.0, rewriting products to take advantage of SOA’s flexibility.

The WebMethods ServiceNet Registry and SOA Management solution were written from the ground up as SOA implementations. The result is that, as first generation vendors such as Tibco and Oracle struggle to unify point solutions, WebMethods is able to leverage its own intrinsic architecture to easily integrate with other products and to extend functionality.

AmberPoint took a courageous step forward in this fast-paced marketplace and rewrote SOA Management System as an SOA-based implementation. The new product is a flexible, policy-driven system in which the AmberPoint policy library supports not just end-user SOA solutions, but the AmberPoint system itself. This kind of re-architecture, previously almost unheard of in the product world, is beginning to dot the vendor landscape.

There are also longtime vendors that are making these kinds of investments. BEA is hedging its bets with the AquaLogic Service Bus, an SOA-based sibling to WebLogic. HP is developing multiple products using an SOA foundation, including its SOA Manager solution. Vendors that leverage SOAs for their own solutions are positioning themselves for the same kinds of quantum leaps that businesses are seeing. Once the initial hurdles of ramp-up and infrastructure investments are overcome, and that first SOA service is built, additional services can be created very quickly and cheaply relative to monolithic architectures. Long term, these vendors will be very well-positioned to address a constantly changing enterprise market.

EMA’s SOA Research Report series, published throughout the first half of 2006, discusses vendors in the SOA market in detail. More information at EMA’s Web site.