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Should Web service orchestration be implemented as a standalone solution?

Should Web service orchestration be implemented on top of a (J2EE) application server or be offered as a standalone solution?
Prior to emergence of Web services standards, SOAP, WSDL and more recently BPEL4WS and WS-T, virtually all systems for coordinating asyncronous activities were implemented as standalone solutions. This required creating multiple layers of heavy-duty infrastructure, with little or no concern for a coherent application model.

An alternative approach, based on delivering Web service orchestration on top of an application server, can provide the following advantages:

(1) Increasingly, integration with existing components and services is a development task as part of building an application rather than integration being the application itself (aka system glue). Delivering an orchestration solution on top of J2EE is less intrusive and can also provide native J2EE support for other application components. It also integrates seamlessly into the overall application development lifecycle.

(2) J2EE already provides a sound application model, based on MVC (model-view-controller) architecture. Extending capabilities from this architecture while preserving the application model should result in better utilization of developer skills, more consistent application designs and implementations that are easier to maintain and extend.

(3) Delivering an orchestration solution on top of an application server avoids re-inventing the wheel, by leveraging the run-time facilities that are already in place (similar to databases using facilities of the underlying file systems rather than inventing their own). It also allows applications to be deployed and administered within infrastructure that is a known commodity in the operational infrastructure of most enterprises.

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Standardizing business integration with JBI Integration technologies are expensive and often tie you into a proprietary solution. Additionally, customers often have to rely on more than one vendor to meet their integration needs. Ron Ten-Hove's group at Sun Microsystems was working on a service-oriented integration product when they realized that the industry needed something more than just another integration product: It needed a standard.

The Java Business Integration (JBI) specification aims to eliminate vendor lock-in by providing a standard container in which components from multiple vendors and various integration technologies can interact. In this interview, Ten-Hove, who is specification lead for JBI, takes a closer look at JBI and describes a typical JBI implementation using a purchase order example.

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