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SOA's newest product category, ESB hardware

The enterprise service bus evolved from software, but IBM is now pushing it's DataPower Integration Appliance XI50, a piece of hardware, as an ESB. Could that change the market?

One of the great mysteries of the modern world is what constitutes an enterprise service bus. We tackled the subject last fall in our ESB market report, but there's a new consideration in the mix.

Last week during IBM's Impact 2007 conference, WebSphere general manager Tom Rosamilia used a fascinating term when describing the IBM DataPower integration appliance, he called it an ESB. That's right, he called a piece of networking hardware an ESB.

Now it's not a new notion that hardware could be used in place of middleware, but IBM is now applying the ESB term to its DataPower XI50 device. If you read through its product sheet it's always pitched ESB-like integration functionality, but it's never applied the ESB label. We always knew this was coming. Now it's here.

While it would be nice if marketing and technology didn't intersect, the reality is they do. Also, IBM's really good at marketing. If it's going to start talking about its ESB hardware you can expect Cisco/Reactivity and Layer 7 to follow suit. They aren't going to want to get left in the dust. Love it or hate it, ESB is a powerful term in the SOA market, something that resonates with users.

Will app dev shops cotton to the notion of an ESB in a different form factor? Is hardware truly ready to compete against middleware in the ESB arena? What are the ramifications of choosing hardware instead of middleware to act as your primary message bus? When does f5 jump into the fray? All of that has yet to shake out, but the ESB conversation looks like it's about to change.

The biggest, most aggressive SOA vendor out there is talking about ESB hardware, fallout is inevitable. this week will dive deeper with Rosamilia on the subject of ESB hardware. For those who are interested in how the network and transport can be brought to bear in SOA, make sure to check out our recent column on transport-level optimization.

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