In-Depth

When does the bus arrive?

With all the major server vendors planning to incorporate ESB capabilities into their core offerings within a few years, IT managers are wondering whether to jump in now with major ESB upgrades, or wait for the capability to show up in their new Microsoft or IBM servers with only the incremental cost to pay.

As for ESB vendors, Gartner analyst Roy Schulte predicts that, just as the browser became a subsystem within the operating system, the ESB will become a subsystem within the application server. Some of the smaller players with novel technologies will be acquisition candidates, while the products of others will grow into successful full-blown integration backbones.

Microsoft’s emerging Longhorn technology is expected to support most ESB functionality. Longhorn is scheduled to be released in beta in the first half of 2005, and for general availability in the second half of 2006. A key component of Longhorn is Indigo, a unified framework for building service applications with a unified programming model for Microsoft and J2EE-distributed programming stacks.

Because Indigo is an extension of .NET 2.0, the existing base of 6 million Visual Studio developers should be able to transition to the technology with minimal training, according to Ari Bixhorn, lead product manager of Web services strategy at Microsoft. Bixhorn says Indigo will have a footprint of only about 2 megabytes, considerably less than those of other ESBs. He notes, “Indigo can be hosted anywhere since it does not require the same heavyweight hosting that ESBs have.”

“We’re not sure that the size of the run-time in this day and age is the most important consideration,” Tom Murphy at Cape Clear says. “The simple fact is that the key to an effective ESB is adherence to standards, full commitment to Web services standards and the ability to interoperate across existing and legacy technologies from Java to J2EE, .NET and the mainframe.”

Meanwhile, IBM, also is layering ESB functionality onto its latest version of WebSphere, which incorporates the first efforts of IBM’s Jetstream initiative with messaging transport over WebSphere MQ (or any other JMS provider), SOAP, HTTP, and other protocols. Applications server vendors such as BEA Systems are also planning to jump into ESB.

Herain Oberai, senior manager of product marketing at BEA, says its new Quicksilver technology (expected by the middle of this year) would add the ability to manage and monitor the intelligent routing of services. Another key advance is the advent of a configuration management tool that will allow developers to create applications without having to write code or take down the server.

“I don’t know what will happen with the ESB market by 2008, but the investment I put into Sonic will already be covered by then,” says Bharat Gogia, VP of IT at Provide Commerce. “If I have to change, that will not be a problem if they come up with something better than Sonic, but I am betting that Sonic will still be competing with them then as well. I would not wait for IBM or Microsoft to come up with something. It’s not that they won’t come up with something good. It’s just that if you invest properly, you should be ready for the new technology to develop.”

About the Author

George Lawton is a freelance writer in Brisbane, Calif.

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