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iWay jumps onto a crowded ESB highway

iWay Software has debuted a new enterprise service bus, complete with a BPEL engine and Web services management, but the ESB market is broad and in upheaval.

Yet another middleware vendor has stepped beyond its enterprise application integration (EAI) roots as iWay Software Inc. yesterday announced it will offer an enterprise service bus (ESB), complete with business process management for service-oriented architecture implementations.

 As for ESBs, the market is still confused by the fact that the products that call themselves ESBs are still quite diverse in capability.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC

Originally started in 2001 as a spinoff from business intelligence software vendor Information Builders Inc., iWay boasts more than 300 EAI adapters, but the lure of SOA, or perhaps the inevitability of it, has drawn iWay into the ESB market. While iWay still plans to leverage its adapter base, the iWay Service Manager ESB allows for distributed Web services creation and deployments with monitoring, policy management, trade management andBusiness Process Execution Language (BPEL) workflow management all built into it.

Jake Freivald, iWay's vice president for product marketing, called the ESB a natural outgrowth of the business iWay has been building for five years.

"With EAI there were hubs and spokes and iWay was specifically a spoke vendor," he said. "We were already building for distributed architectures to a large extent, but we were hiding it under this term adapters."

The company's adapter base will come into play as a value-add on top of the ESB. Freivald noted that many IT shops still need to bridge the gap between XML and other types of data and that XSLT transformations won't do the trick.

"It's something people are looking for in the market and they're not getting," he said. "We know we can fill that void."

The trick of course is to perform the integration while adhering to the principles of loose coupling, something EAI famously does not do well.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC, said that while adapters have a role to play in SOA it's mostly for tactical deployments, not a core piece of SOA. He said that users need to be careful of what they're buying when they go ESB shopping.

"As for ESBs, the market is still confused by the fact that the products that call themselves ESBs are still quite diverse in capability," he said. "As a result, when customers say they want an ESB, they could mean very different things. What we're seeing is that there's a spectrum of approaches among the various SOA infrastructure products -- some labeled ESB, some not. At one extreme are the tightly coupled EAI products with service interfaces, like SeeBeyond and webMethods. A bit less extreme are the application server-based ESBs like the IBM ESB and BEA's AquaLogic service bus. In the middle is a product like the Sonic ESB, which does have the messaging infrastructure, but takes a more service-oriented approach to distributing the service containers than the ones mentioned above.

"At the opposite end of the spectrum would be peer-to-peer approaches linking intelligent Service endpoints, but the SOA marketplace is far from ready for this approach. Moving into the center from that extreme are the distributed intermediary approaches, like Blue Titan, SOA Software and also what companies like Cisco are envisioning. Then closer to the middle from them would be Cape Clear's approach, which allows for, but doesn't require a message transport."

It boils down to a middleware approach to transport versus a network-based transport design inside your SOA.

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"Fundamentally, we see the middleware-centric ESBs of the first group as being in a transitional market," Bloomberg said. "As companies eventually get wise that they just don't need more middleware. After all, they already have a boatload of middleware and if they get more than one ESB, then they'll need more middleware just to connect up their middleware. Eventually, the [network-base] distributed intermediary approach will gain ground, as this approach is more cost-effective, flexible, scalable and architecturally elegant than the middleware-centric approach."

So while iWay has joined the growing ranks of ESB vendors, the ESB itself is likely to see a great deal of disruption in the coming years. Bloomberg said it may expand to include the network intermediary approach or it may stay as pure middleware, joining adapters as a tool to be used in tactical deployments.

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