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Iona takes lead in new Eclipse SOA project

The proposed tooling platform for SOA-based infrastructure will be seeded by the tooling from Iona's Artix enterprise service bus.

Iona Technologies is throwing its hat into the Eclipse ring, joining the open source foundation as a strategic developer and board member and taking the lead on a proposed top-level service-oriented architecture (SOA) project.

The proposal for the SOA Tools Platform (STP) project is to provide an integrated developer tooling platform for the SOA-based infrastructure. Following the model of Eclipse projects, the platform will be the foundation of an extensible tool set, in this case, for developing and deploying SOA applications. Iona is providing the seed code for the project, submitting the Eclipse-based tooling for its Artix enterprise system bus (ESB) product as the baseline. Once approved by the Eclipse community, the STP project will be the ninth top-level project hosted by Eclipse.

This is a strong, aggressive strategy [ Iona is taking]; they're telling people 'we're going to be valuable and relevant in the infrastructure that's emerging'
Tom Rhinelander
Principal Industry AnalystNew Rowley Group Inc.

Joining Waltham, Mass.-based Iona on the project management committee is data management vendor Sybase Inc., Dublin, Calif., and ObjectWeb, an open source consortium focused on middleware. Sybase is leading the Eclipse Data Tools Platform project, and ObjectWeb is hosting the Iona-sponsored Celtix open source Java ESB, announced in June.

"Iona has been tooling to Eclipse for a year and a half now. All Artix tools today are Eclipse tools; that code base will be open sourced," said Carl Trieloff, director of product management for Iona. The project's results will provide the standard tooling for Artix and Celtix going forward, he said.

Sybase's WorkSpace, an Eclipse-based unified development environment announced at JavaOne, dovetails with the STP proposal, said Karl Reti, director of engineering at Sybase. "Looking at the outline Iona is proposing, it's similar to the internal framework we've been working on in WorkSpace," Reti said. "Rather than forge [something different] it makes sense to work on a project like this. Our intention is we will contribute some components from our existing framework, but we have not yet decided which pieces."

According to Iona, the initial scope of the STP will cover developer requirements for creating service consumers and providers, configuring physical attributes of a service, defining policies and governance for accessing or consuming services, locating or adding services, and creating artifacts.

Ian Skerrett, director of marketing at the Eclipse Foundation, said Eclipse has two mandates: "to build frameworks to enable tool providers to build tools on top, so extensibility and APIs [application programming interfaces] are very important; and to prove the frameworks and APIs are industrial strength by building exemplary tools to show the frameworks work." The STP project, he said, is about creation and deployment tools for SOA. "It will get driven out in the proposal from Iona and feedback [from the Eclipse community]."

The STP project is "a starting point," said Tom Rhinelander, principal industry analyst at New Rowley Group Inc., Georgetown, Mass. "As you move forward with SOA development, you need some base-level tools."

In the SOA space, a lot vendors have created their own tool sets from scratch, Rhinelander said. "In the services world, you're connecting with other applications through a service mechanism and creating a composite application. You do need a whole development environment to do that. This [project] is really trying to deliver the fundamentals for people to deliver services and create policies. This is a basic framework for getting off the ground in the SOA space."

There are some unique aspects to SOA development versus traditional component development, said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, Waltham, Mass. "The most important asset is the contract -- the meta data, documents that describe how something works. There are not many good tools for creating meta data. Most vendors are producing their own tools. So one common environment makes sense, as long as you have a bunch of people willing to support what comes out of it."

For more information

Eclipse SOA project inching closer to launch

Read about the OASIS plan to build SOA blueprints

For Iona, the Eclipse project is the company's "one-two punch in the open source area," Rhinelander said. "Iona is doing a lot, with a rebirth around the ESB, and rebranding themselves around the open source initiative with Celtix. Their reputation is an old-world middleware vendor; they're trying to inject themselves back in this industry. They also recognize the huge benefit to working with open source."

Trieloff said Iona's open source strategy is "Celtix on the runtime side, Eclipse on the tooling side."

To take advantage of the energy in the open source world, "it makes sense to give away some of what you're doing," Rhinelander said. "Celtix and Artix overlap [with the Eclipse project] to some degree, but you have to give something to play in this space. If you're not willing to give up something of core value, people won't see you as a player. This is a strong, aggressive strategy [Iona is taking]; they're telling people 'we're going to be valuable and relevant in the infrastructure that's emerging.'"

The STP project proposal is available on the Eclipse Foundation Web site for review and comment for the next 30 days.

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