IBM ESB plans revealed

Over the next 12 to 18 months, IBM will roll out a series of products and technologies that will help solidify its ESB (enterprise services bus) strategy by more closely integrating its messaging protocols with its high-level integration tools to form a single infrastructure.

The first of these moves will come late this year or early in 2005 with the delivery of a yet-to-be-named server in IBM's WebSphere integration family of servers.

"This convergence process is an attempt to reconcile into a single infrastructure all the low-level messaging protocols such as JMS, MQ, IIOP. Step number two is to converge its key application integration tools such as sophisticated message transformation and business process management into what they refer to as WebSphere Business Integration Version 6.0," said one source familiar with the company's plans.

Other sources close to the company said that over the next eight to 10 months, the company will deliver new server-based products and tools where integration process capabilities will converge with messaging via a "next generation approach using service-oriented technologies based on richer Web services standards."

"Sounds like a good plan on a couple of levels. This notion of an ESB connecting out to an SOA is very important because there is such a plethora of standards and protocols that would be part of a real enterprise messaging system. It is hard work," said Steven O'Grady, senior analyst with RedMonk.

During the past year, IBM has been shipping bits and pieces of technology in a variety of products that corporate developers could use to create their own ESB. Some of those products include WebSphere Business Integration Broker, Event Broker, the Interchange Server it acquired from CrossWorlds, the WebSphere Business Integration Workbench, and several others.

The company has also bundled a number of messaging technologies into its WebSphere Application Server such as JMS, a Web services software stack, and support for SOAP, UDDI, and WSDL.

"Instead of a separate stack for MQ Series, another for JMS, and a third stack of Web services, they will put together a unified infrastructure by the end of 2005 that combines all these things that will provide message routing and message transformation among all these protocols," one source said.

Sources said when the unified architecture is in place, everything in that environment will "look like a Web service no matter what the protocol."

Although observers have called IBM late to the ESB game against competitors such as Sonic Software, Iona Techologies, WebMethods, and Cape Clear Software, they also believe Big Blue can use its wealth of technical resources to compete.

"IBM's big asset is its huge installed base. But more importantly, if you are an IBM user and know they are working on a true enterprise level ESB, you may be willing to wait a little longer for that," said another source familiar with the company's plans.

Over the longer term, some observers see Microsoft's forthcoming Indigo technology as a serious competitor for IBM in the ESB market.

"When you really look at Indigo you realize it is an ESB architecture with some things very similar to what IBM wants to do like multiple protocol support and (protocol) transformation. Indigo under Longhorn was to come out in 2006 but with Microsoft thinking of releasing it for Windows 2000 and XP, it could bring (IBM and Microsoft's) ESB products into competition no later than 2005," another source said.

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