Briefing: Infravio Ensemble
Starting around $75,000
Infravio calls themselves the "leading provider of Web services
management and integration software." I talked with them recently when
they announced the release of Ensemble 4.0, their latest platform. Their
goal is to approach Web services from an enterprise application
integration (EAI) perspective. They see Web services as supplying
business logic, and Ensemble as supplying a host of supporting services
around that logic.
You'll probably recognize this general vision as matching pretty well to
the current buzzword Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), and indeed,
Infravio acts as an architectural partner for their clients. In addition
to supplying turnkey software, they'll also review plans, define
projects, and even write Java code if there's some place where a bit of
extra glue is needed. With their typical customer paying several hundred
thousand dollars for a rollout, this sort of holistic approach is
Ensemble concentrates on creating a "productivity layer" between Web
services clients and servers. Unlike the typical anonymous client
approach that most of us think of in connection with Web services, they
promote a contractual approach where particular consumers are registered
(though they also support anonymous endpoints when it makes sense).
Ensemble sits at that contractual level, supplying routing,
transactions, transformations, security, and other services. The result
is that the Web services themselves are coupled much less tightly to
their consumers, and a single Web service can serve many consumers with
slightly different needs. In the context of an enterprise, this might
amount to, say, an inventory Web service presenting different
information to an order entry application and a management rollup
report. In this release they've also added some management bits to the
productivity layer, to handle monitoring, logging, alerts, and
All of these services are specified at design-time rather than run time.
Ensemble maintains its own repository of metadata that contains the
contracts between providers and consumers. Developers work with a
Web-based configurator to set up these contracts and the software that
they call upon.
Ensemble also helps turn existing services into Web services. They
provide a series of wrappers that can turn low-level Java, C#, C++, or
SQL interfaces into WSDL, which of course then play in the Web services
world. Infravio also provides their own orchestration engine, or it can
be configured to work with existing orchestration software in your
enterprise. Right now the Ensemble platform runs on J2EE. They're in the
process of porting all of this infrastructure to .NET as well, and
expect to have that release by the end of the year.
Certainly setting up a SOA backbone is no simple undertaking. If your
organization is ready to head down this road, you're probably already
thinking about what would be involved in configuring everything
yourselves. For a major project, it's worth seeing whether you can buy
the infrastructure rather than building it. That's where Ensemble comes
For more reviews and opinions from Mike Gunderloy, click here.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.