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Last week's InfoWorld article, SOA meets open b-to-b integration by Brad Shimmin, couldn’t escape my attention for several reasons. Brad makes the observation that ESB offerings seem to be appearing "in the clouds" of SaaS vendors, commercial ISVs, and now open source providers. He goes on to coin the term 'IaaS' to mean Integration as a Service, and suggests its success will be driven by the 'sudden realization' that SOA has as much to do with B2B as it does enterprise integration. Finally, from all this he asserts that ESBs in the cloud, IaaS, and SOA for B2B will all become the spoils of the Open Source community because of its cost relationship to ISV solutions. While I will enthusiastically agree with much of what this article observes, I'd like to offer a slightly different perspective that leads me to very different conclusions.
First, SOA, or more specifically ESB-style mediation, placed in the cloud is not a new concept at all. As far back as 10 years ago, I began espousing that the destiny of everything we are doing in this space (meaning SOA and ESB middleware) would eventually and ultimately land inside the [carrier] cloud and would be sold and consumed as a metered managed service—like a utility. More recently, I have been delivering a keynote presentation at various venues around the world entitled Socially Oriented Architecture , which among other things clearly lays out the progression by which mediation will find its final home within the cloud. Incidentally, I also use the term IaaS in that presentation with the same definition that Brad takes credit for coining. Not that I care who gets credit for coining the term; it's just that when you Google "IaaS, Integration," you get over 14,000 hits dating back to 2004—so it's really not a new concept at all.
Moreover, the revolutionary wonder of this analysis is not as sudden as he suggests—it may have only now reached a level of intensity that it can be seen by the masses for the first time. Case in point, we (Progress Software) have been licensing ESB technology for the express purpose of IaaS, and ESB as a managed service, for years. At present we have well over 100 SaaS providers that OEM our technology, many for the sole purpose of providing integration back to the enterprises customers they serve as well as to other SaaS providers that serve their common customers—creating full scale enterprise integrations entirely within the cloud. The pinnacle proof of this to date occurred last year when British Telecom introduced BT iBus—an on demand ESB, provisioned entirely from within that carriers cloud, which is sold and bought as a metered service—just like dial-tone. That offering, by the way, is based completely on Progress Sonic ESB which BT had burned onto a custom hardware appliance that they'll gladly come screw onto your basement plywood just like a DSL modem, IPTV box or any other telecom provisioned termination.
But over and above SOA's usefulness to B2B or ESBs appearance in the cloud, the most important point to clarify is that neither belong to Open Source—at least not exclusively. For those who have known Sonic as far back as it's inception, this will come as no surprise, but for the rest of you, it may be illuminating to know that Sonic set its roots in OEMing ESB software to large B2B audiences. Sonic came about in the B2B heyday and was then the primary backbone technology for B2B platforms like CommerceOne, GE Global Exchange (now GXS), SAP Markets, and lesser known B2B Exchanges such as the Quadrem Precious Minerals Exchange and the ABNA Agribusiness Exchange, among others. While the B2B market topped out much sooner than any of us hoped at the time, the lessons we learned about supporting thousands of enterprises on a global footprint gave us the design-center and pedigree to provide SOA—in the cloud—that richly supports the federation, carrier-grade reliability, and manageability at scale that commercial enterprises have come to value over the past few years—and SaaS providers now need to effectively grow in their businesses in the future.
SOA What? ESB in the clouds, SOA for B2B, and IaaS are all great ideas indeed. To those ends I applaud this article for highlighting those facts to the uninitiated. However, to our OEM customers that number in the hundreds, these ideas are not new at all. Rather, they have taken great comfort in licensing commercially supported software from a proven enterprise grade ISV with extensive experience in OEM relationships. While the fog may have now lifted enough for everyone to see these ideas, our customers have innovated—and made lots of money—with these notions as we began the work of delivering commercial technology to enable it way back when Y2K was still the topic of the day.
View all posts from Hub Vandervoort on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.
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