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Synapse to provide open source Web services mediation

Leading ESB and SOA management players lead the new Apache project to provide transformation and routing and promote loose coupling.

A proposal to create an open source Web service mediation framework has been submitted to the Apache Software Foundation "incubator" under the Web Services project. The "Synapse" framework is intended to intermediate between Web services to provide transformation and routing, promote loose coupling between services, and support greater reliability and resiliency.

The project proposal is to build a set of components that work together with Axis2, an implementation of the SOAP recommendation from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and other Apache and open source projects.

We decided we were not going to call Synapse an ESB. 
Dave Chappell
Vice PresidentSonic Software, Bedford, Mass

Initial contributors to the project are startup company WSO2, founded by key leaders of the Apache Web Services Project, along with Blue Titan Software Inc., Iona Software Inc., Infravio and Sonic Software Corp. Iona is also the sponsor of the open source enterprise service bus (ESB) Celtix, hosted by the ObjectWeb community.

"The goal is to create a core set of Web services intermediaries used across a variety of SOA infrastructure products, like Web services management, ESBs, SOA infrastructure products, to provide a common infrastructure to improve interoperability," said Dave Chappell, vice president and chief technology evangelist for Sonic Software, Bedford, Mass.

"We decided we were not going to call Synapse an ESB," Chappell said. "We talked about this in great length, and we're all clear we don't want it to take the place of an ESB or other SOA infrastructure products."

Dennis Byron, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., called the positioning of Synapse "pure committee. It's a broker, a message bus, an integration server -- they're all the same thing. All lower-level middleware will become such a commodity you can't build a business on it."

But considering some of the market confusion around the definition of an ESB, positioning Synapse as a mediation framework "may help clear up some confusion," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC in Waltham, Mass. "The concept of a Web services intermediary is core to the way you build an SOA. The intermediary notion is really how you build loose coupling into a service. You might have a consumer send a request and you don't want it to go directly to the provider of a service if there are compatibility issues; you may need to change the version of SOAP, for example. Without an intermediary, you won't have loose coupling."

An ESB acts as an intermediary, Bloomberg said, but does other things as well, such as message transporting, and "one vendor's ESB is not like another's."

"We're going to continue to compete at a higher level," Chappell said, "like a continuous availability architecture, value-added services like an orchestration server, a management layer that holds it all together," and so on.

Chappell said Sonic "will be making source code contributions, but at the moment it's unclear whether it will be a piece of [their] commercial product or pieces [they] build from working with the open source community."

For Iona's part, it will continue to focus on Celtix while contributing expertise to Synapse, said Carl Trieloff, director of product management for Iona. "And if Synapse wants to implement functionality [already] inside Celtix, we'll promote it so it gets used from the Celtix code base."

He said the two communities will cooperate. "The cross pollination of interactions between the two communities is very beneficial," he said. "Obviously, we'd prefer a single project, but it does validate Iona's open source strategy and the creation of Celtix. Depending on how it plays out, Synapse will provide additional reach for the Celtix story, or Synapse will provide a channel to the Apache community for Celtix technology."

According to the proposal, the Synapse architecture will be based on core Web Services standards. Synapse will reuse existing Apache implementations of these specifications where possible, as well as the Axis2 object model.

For more information

Learn about three Web services management standards at Apache


Learn more about Celtix, Iona 's open source enterprise service bus

Infravio Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., is seeding the project with code from its X-broker product, which provides a full featured Web services intermediary.

"There are two pieces of the puzzle that are critical for SOA," said Miko Matsumura, Infravio vice president of marketing. "One is an intermediary; the other piece is registry/repository."

Matsumura said Infravio's intention going forward is "to build enterprise functionality on top of Synapse and make an offering of that sort. Apache licensing and meritocracy are excellent platforms for developing commercial-grade enterprise software."

He said the company has not made any decisions regarding branding, and the company will continue to meet its product obligations with X-broker, "but the majority of X-broker will be embodied in the Apache Synapse seed code."

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