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Loosely Coupled weblog

Friday, July 23, 2004

Today's top ESB choices

We name today's top seven ESB vendors in the new issue of Loosely Coupled monthly digest, which is now available for download. The list omits several big names who've promised to deliver an ESB: customers can't implement projects using a promise. When companies like IBM and BEA pre-announce offerings there's always an element of 'fud', aiming to persuade customers to delay buying decisions until the new products arrive. I think IBM has acted honorably in waiting until earlier this month before stating its intentions, because it could have bought itself a lot more 'fud time' by pre-announcing much earlier. BEA I think is probably more guilty of announcing vaporware; I expect to see an acquisition before the company is able to complete its QuickSilver platform.

The companies we've chosen for our top seven are all shipping proven ESBs that already have a track record with customers. That effectively narrows the field to smaller specialist companies. We've also missed out EAI vendors who've recently tacked a cut-down ESB offering onto their existing range; we want to see more evidence that those are serious products rather than mere appendages, designed principally as an on/off-ramp to the vendor's existing infrastructure.

Having missed off so many names, we've decided to make this part one of a two-part series. We'll publish a second list with a later issue of the digest, once we've had a chance to evaluate the vendors who are currently promising to play in this space but as yet haven't properly substantiated their offerings.

The seven names we've picked are (in alphabetical order) ... <drumroll> ...

  • Cape Clear Software
  • Fiorano Software
  • Iona Technologies
  • PolarLake
  • Sonic Software
  • Spiritsoft
  • Systinet

One of the things that I found interesting about this exercise was to find out how fuzzy the line is between ESB and web services integration gateway. There is really no substantial difference, except perhaps that the companies who position their products as ESBs have probably got more of a background in messaging than those who choose not to. But that's really a difference in where they're coming from rather than where they're all headed.

Overall, then, Loosely Coupled concludes that ESB, despite all the hype, is not that important a buzzword. To some extent, it's more of a hindrance than a help, because it obscures the real issue. Yes, customers should be putting in a standards-based, universal integration backbone as part of their SOA infrastructure. But implementing a packaged ESB product is just one of several alternative ways of achieving that. It's worth doing if you have a clear and urgent need to link up multiple resources to streamline an existing set of well-defined business processes, especially if you have a mix of proprietary or legacy platforms along with some newer J2EE or web services-based applications. But if the project is less clear-cut than that, the messaging layer will be the least of your worries and you should be looking more carefully at other elements of the infrastructure such as services management and business process integration.

Click to view the front page of the July issue (PDF format)
Another learning process that we've been going through has been to fine-tune content planning and production schedules for the Loosely Coupled monthly digest. Our first issue, featuring an SOA management survey, came out in April. The second issue has gone through a couple of iterations before finally coming out as the July issue. We've discovered that doing a themed set of supplier profiles for each issue, as we originally planned, isn't really practical, and interestingly the main reason for that is the ongoing evolution of the market sector we're covering. Even a well-established term like ESB, as we've discovered, eludes easy categorization. So we've decided to take more time and produce a themed special report every quarter. We'll subsequently republish each of these reports as separate standalone documents with their own cover price — the first in line is an updated SOA management directory, which will be out next month — but they'll be available free-of-charge to our paying subscribers.

These changes will leave us with a slimmer, more digestible (if you'll excuse the pun) monthly digest, with an emphasis on timely interpretation and summary of the news, along with practical accounts of how managers and architects are handling SOA and business process automation in real-world projects.

So here's the sales pitch. The next issue comes out in September, and if you subscribe now we have a special launch price of $195 for a 1-year subscription ($100 off the standard price), or $85 for a three-month subscription (that's $10 off), plus we throw in the April 2004 issue for free, and you'll get the updated SOA management directory next month. You can subscribe online and get immediate access to the first two issues. We also have a site license option if you want to share your subscription with colleagues. We even have a no-questions-asked, 7-day automatic refund policy if you're not completely satisfied. So why wait? Subscribe today.

posted by Phil Wainewright 11:47 AM (GMT) | comments | link

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