Broken future for integration brokers?
Integration brokers are increasingly becoming part of application platforms from the major vendors, including IBM, Microsoft and BEA, according to analysts at the Burton Group. Vice President and Research Director Anne Thomas Manes perhaps startled some attendees at Burton's recent Catalyst North America 2004 conference in San Diego when she asserted that integration brokers are being "sucked up" into application platforms. Independent middleware makers, suggest Burton analysts, will find competing with platform makers more and more difficult.
"Most of this integration broker functionality is moving straight into the application platform," said James Kobielus, Burton's senior analyst. "That's happening all over the board -- BEA, Fujitsu, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, Sun. The biggest, strongest trend is bringing all that middleware, all that integration functionality, into the basic platform. So they provide integration brokers as one of the many application platform components to help you with the entire SOA life cycle -- from modeling to development to integration orchestration to management of those services."
Examples of offshoots of this trend are interesting, too. Kobielus noted that Microsoft plans to include BizTalk functionality in the upcoming release of Longhorn. This movement continues to create a one-stop-shopping market made up of the big application platform vendors.
But the trend will also put increasing pressure on traditional independent middleware vendors. Kobielus argued that the middleware market is overcrowded with vendors with comparable products, and indicated there is likely to be continuing consolidation through acquisitions and mergers in that area.
"Looking at the integration broker market, it's overcrowded," he said. "There are dozens of vendors with very comparable features to each other in core information brokering capability. They all have a very comparable range of resource connectors. They all have very comparable visual modeling paradigms. This is becoming increasingly commoditized in terms of the core integration brokering functionality that these vendors provide. They're having trouble differentiating their core integration brokering functionality."
And when it came time to offer recommendations to the application developers and managers at the Burton conference, Kobielus said he knew he was going to anger those middleware platform vendors.
"You should be going with the integration broker provided by your principle or strategic application platform vendor," he told his audience. "The reason being, you have the integration broker being sucked into the application platform as a critical component of platforms like Longhorn and others."
For developers working on one of the major platforms, this is a positive development because it will save time and money.
"The good thing about acquiring an integration broker from your application platform vendor," Kobielus said, "is that they've already done all the integration among the components -- the portal, the integration broker, the application server -- so it all works. You have confidence that it all works together."
For shops evaluating application platform vendors, one of the key criteria becomes the level of integration that will come built-in.
However, the Burton analyst didn't leave independent middleware vendors completely out in the cold, recognizing that they have a place in the heterogeneous environments that are characteristic of large enterprises.
"I'm not going to say that you shouldn't go with the Tibcos and SeeBeyonds," Kobielus said. "They provide strong integration brokering capabilities for multiplatform or platform-agnostic orchestration."
He also suggested that developers look at Web services management vendors that offer what he characterized as "increasingly sophisticated, lightweight integration brokers" based on SOAP and other XML technologies.
Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.