Briefing: Infravio Ensemble

Ensemble 4.0
Starting around $75,000
Cupertino, California
(408) 861-3000

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 expected.

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 notifications.

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 in.


For more reviews and opinions from Mike Gunderloy, click here.

About the Author

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.


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