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At Progress Software event: As SOA meets new challenges, ESBs must rise in response

At Progress' 2011 user event, expert Robin Bloor stressed the role of the enterprise service bus as application integration grows in complexity.

A constant stream of new technologies means SOA will face new challenges going forward. The result may be that the enterprise service bus (ESB) becomes a more crucial part of software architecture, says longtime industry observer Robin Bloor.

Increased messaging loads will require better ESBs and better use of ESBs by architects, advised Bloor, Chief Analyst, The Bloor Group. He spoke in a session at Progress Software's Progress Revolution 2011 event in Boston, Mass. Much Progress effort in recent years has centered on high-powered ESBs and advanced complex event processing.

In the high-powered modern enterprise of events, services and processes, increased event traffic is a new part of the dilemma software architects must face. This stresses services as we know them now. "It's not just events, but the services that accompany events" that must be mastered in enterprises of the near future, Bloor indicated.

These issues are reflected in results from's 2010 SOA Survey. The study found that dealing with events and processes in the context of services was real issue. It was cited as the most significant SOA challenge by 26.7 % of survey respondents.

"The ESB was already necessary but now it becomes the foundation of how things are going to be done,'' he said.

A number of technology trends are going to make things even more difficult for architects, said Bloor. Count wider use of BPM, mobile applications and cloud computing among these driving trends.

''The one that is really going to make a difference now is mobile,'' said Bloor. ''We don't have an infrastructure that was built to deliver a mobile service. This has happened suddenly. According to Bloor, ''we didn't know it was going to happen until Apple delivered the iPad.'' Cloud computing complicates IT infrastructure, creating new connections requiring integration, he said.

Responsive Process Management takes stage

Meanwhile, the number of diverse applications grows and customers look for more and more in ESBs, said Hub Vandervoort, CTO of SOA Infrastructure Products for Progress. That means they want failover, high availability, and greater event orientation, just for starters. For its part, Progress offers a range of ESBs, ranging from an ActiveMQ-based product from its FuseSource subsidiary to its Sonic enterprise messaging line.

Progress continues to pursue a dual-prong marketing strategy: one focused on ISVs, some of which have been partners since the company arose from 4GL roots, and one focused on enterprise users ready to employ cutting edge integration software that it acquired via a series of best-of-breed startups.

The company has emphasized its complex-event processing (CEP) capabilities in recent years. What it calls ''Responsive Process Management,'' or "RPM, "was a major theme at its event. The CEP effort is driven by John Bates, company CTO, who has become a more prominent company spokesperson, especially in the wake of last month's news that Progress CEO Rick Reidy will be stepping down. A replacement for Reidy has yet to be named.

Conference attendee Bryan McDowell saw potential in RPM, and said it was well presented at the event. McDowell is Founder of Golden Flag, a SOA and mobile platform software maker and consultancy. He said GoldenFlag is a Progress partner and reseller.

''RPM as an idea is the next wave. It makes sense to me,'' he said, noting that Progress had done much in the past to forward the idea of the ESB, and may do similarly with RPM.

McDowell said he looked forward to learning more about RPM, which is best seen in Savvion BPM, Actional SOA Governance and Apama CEP software that Progress has integrated via a Control Tower management console.

"With Control Tower, the products are converging. I am not sure if the products are yet mature enough to deliver the concept, he said. ''But that may be me not having enough practical experience with the products in a real world environment. It will be interesting."

Can SOA evolve to better cover events?

In general terms, McDowell echoed some of Bloor's comments on the difficulties mobile devices may present to SOA. Still, SOA is a good approach.

''I see device integration via SOA, not by applications. If we do the latter, we've made another point-to-point interface,'' he said. But SOA may need some more growing of its own, to deal with faster systems and new complexities, he suggested.

''I still don't see how [SOA] is evolving to meet some of the new challenges that are coming to us," said McDowell. ''I don't think it is defined well enough to deal with real-time scenarios. ''

SOA has to evolve to support event processing, he concluded.

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