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SOA application gateways gaining features: Outlook 2012

With 2012 near, we look at the new Forrester Wave analysis of SOA application gateways. This essential SOA infrastructure piece is adding features.

This past year saw SOA application gateways adding functionality just as they have over the past few years. As SOA becomes a mainstream trend and Web applications grow, SOA application gateway use and expansion continues. As we enter a new year, there is a ''broader way of thinking" about these gateways, said Randy Heffner, principal analyst, Forrester.

The overlapping functionality of SOA application gateways presents difficulties for those trying to draw clear boundaries between appliances, according to Heffner. Gateways now typically provide a targeted subset of integration functionality for security, acceleration and attack protection. Heffner said the SOA application gateway is now providing a focused, policy-based SOA control point.

Reminding us that SOA application gateways come in both hardware appliances and software form factors, Heffner points out that, as cloud environments continue to increase, the flexibility of having software, particularly a virtualized form factor or a pre-populated image, like that of Amazon EC2 or RackSpace, becomes much more interesting from a deployment perspective.

“With a broader sense of functionality, you could almost think of it as a messaging gateway,” Heffner said of products including hardware, software or both.

2011 saw some increasing degree of pre-built integration of gateways with ''SOA service life-cycle management solutions,'' more widely described as registries/repositories. Additionally, select vendors were more inclined to provide specific functionality for controlling virtualized instances calling for an increase in distributive management.

A growing trend, Heffner acknowledged, is support for REST among vendors, though companies continue to face challenges in this category, as there is no standard way to deal with REST. That means custom configurations and resulting inefficiencies.

“Some of the products are trying to do more for REST, getting deeper support for HTTPS,” said Heffner. “That’s a growing bit of functionality in the space.”

Forrester's Heffner places companies like Layer 7 Technologies and Vordel in the lead among SOA appliance vendors. His analysis concludes that wide-ranging support for message formats and protocols, as well as strong content transformation features are important characteristics of the most successful gateways.

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