Sonic Software polishes integration product

Sonic Software Corp. on Monday will spruce up its Web services integration product with enhanced usability and performance features and additional platform support, company officials said.

SonicXQ 1.5 is a "lightweight" integration platform that combines Web services standards, asynchronous messaging, and JCA (Java Connector Architecture) to marry applications across a distributed enterprise environment, said Paul Moxon, senior product director at Bedford, Mass.-based Sonic.

Designed to orchestrate process flows across applications, Sonic's approach differs from the traditional use of a centralized business process engine by moving and coordinating distributed application services in EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans)-like containers across the network backbone, Moxon said.

"Once you have all these services running, SonicXQ can orchestrate them through a process flow," Moxon said.

To circumvent the need for a centralized broker to act as process traffic cop, SonicXQ uses "itinerary-based routing," where the information about the direction and context of a particular application component is attached directly to the message it is contained within, said Moxon. He likened this to the baggage tags that airlines put on luggage that stipulates the bag's final destination regardless of how many interim stops the airplane makes to get it there.

Moxon argues that this so-called Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) approach is better suited for highly distributed environments, and in particular for b-to-b integration, where centralizing around one broker slows down performance and hinders scalability.

New features in SonicXQ include support for clustering and load balancing across the application services, out-of-the-box transformation and data mapping via XSLT, and content-based routing. The new version also improves usability and adds support for IBM Corp.'s AIX, Red Hat Inc. Linux and HP-UX, officials said. The Professional Developer Suite version is priced at US$3,750 per developer; the Enterprise version is priced at $10,000 per CPU.

One analyst said Sonic's ESB approach is heralding a trend toward scaled-down EAI offerings that attack application integration at a base level, for much lower cost. Basic components of the model include messaging, Web services support, transformation, and content-based routing, according to Roy Schulte, analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

"It's like the Model T. Before you had them, you had to be rich to own a car," said Schulte. "When they came out, even though they were all black and not fancy, anyone could own one."

Other vendors such as SpiritSoft Ltd. take a similar scaled-down approach. Schulte said he expects companies such as IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to offer trimmer integration platforms in the near future as well.

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