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IBM seeks to simplify SOA with "ESB in a box"

IBM advances the role of appliances for SOA with its "ESB in a box," concept based on the hardware technology from its acquisition of DataPower.

IBM is pushing the envelop of the appliance model for service-oriented architecture (SOA) by introducing the concept of an "ESB in a box" based on the WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50.

"WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50 delivers ESB functionality in a specialized SOA appliance," IBM announced at its Impact 2007 conference last week. That announcement is part of an IBM trend toward other SOA appliances, according to Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions LLC., who attended the conference. "I understand that IBM might also be coming out with a registry and repository appliance," he said.

I think appliances are an attractive model because they help people get over the implementation very quickly.
Tom Rosamilia
General Mananger of WebSphereIBM

In an interview with Tom Rosamilia, general manager of WebSphere software at IBM, following his "ESB in a box" statement at Impact 2007, the IBM executive discussed the appeal of the appliance model for SOA while acknowledging that it has limitations depending on the complexity of the infrastructure.

Rosemilia began by saying, "What it means to be an ESB is somewhat in the eye of the beholder." He explained that his WebSphere team went through a checklist of requirements for an ESB, and determined that the DataPower Integration Appliance XI50 met them all. He said message routing and data transformation were the two key capabilities. "I do believe it is an ESB in a box because I do believe it has those capabilities," he said.

However, Rosemilia acknowledged that it was not a solution to every ESB problem an SOA architect might encounter. "I don't want to overly simplify and say I'm just going to drop it in like this is the dye that changes the color of the sea," he said. "People are tending to solve complicated problems. It's not like you can plug it in and solve complicated problems. But the good thing about an appliance is it's fit for purpose. With software you never know. This is configured with service levels, everything that you would need. There are still things you need to figure out, but it is a much faster path to an ESB."

Rosamilia said that customers will have to determine whether an ESB in a box is going to fit into their SOA infrastructure.

"I believe an ESB is fulfill-able by many products," he said, noting that vendors have built ESBs based on a variety of technologies. "The customer should make their decision based on their need. If I want to drop in an appliance that does this and I don't want to make huge numbers of changes, then that's what I should buy. It's really going to come down to form factors like performance. I think appliances are an attractive model because they help people get over the implementation very quickly."

Gardner said that the key attraction to customers is likely to be the hardware acceleration capabilities that the DataPower appliances have traditionally offered.

"If you had an ESB and you were worried about capacity where you're adding more and more messaging and other middleware integration points to your ESB, you might be worried about capacity," the analyst said. "In that case, you can drop these appliances in there and scale and increase the degree and type of messaging you can do. That's similar to what's been done with DataPower for XML and other types of content acceleration. They're now taking that and saying we can do it with messaging infrastructure as well."

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The new capabilities IBM announced WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50 "extending the XI50's enterprise service bus capabilities," include:

  • Support for direct database connectivity including IBM's DB2 data server.
  • Support for WebSphere Transformation Extender design studio providing common data transformation tooling across IBM's ESB portfolio.
  • Integration of the XI50 with the IBM WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR) for governance capabilities, service interoperability, reuse and connectivity.

Summarizing what he heard at Impact 2007, Gardner said, "The larger message here is that IBM is very much of a mind to use the appliance model more broadly than they have."

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