Open source middleware: the time may be ripe

One topic I bring up a lot at this blogsite is that of market disruption. Typically, when new technologies or products hit the market, they cater first to high-end, high margin businesses.

One topic I bring up a lot at this blogsite is that of market disruption. Typically, when new technologies or products hit the market, they cater first to high-end, high margin businesses. Eventually, new players come in with more commoditized solutions at lower price points that serve the unserved part of the market, and, lo and behold, eventually move up the food chain.

This is what's been happening with SOA. And no where is the market disruption -- commodity solutions chasing high-margin solutions upstream -- more in evidence than in the open source-SOA realm.

I recently had the chance to catch up with Debbie Moynihan, director of the FUSE Community and marketing at Progress Software, who talked about the role of open source middleware. Debbie was formerly director of the open source program at IONA Technologies before the company was acquired by Progress in the past year. FUSE is an open source enterprise service bus originally developed by IONA and based on the Apache ServiceMix project.

We discussed how a compelling story in open source is the potential for bringing SOA to unserved and underserved markets -- such as smaller businesses and departments of larger organizations. In essence, people who don't have the budgets for SOA solutions and consultants. SOA has been part and parcel of high-margin business for vendors, but the time for market disruption may be here. There are even people that have been building their own middleware solutions, incredibly enough.

Open source solutions such as FUSE ESB middleware may pave the way for this shift toward this new generation of commoditized SOA deployments. "If you look at market data traditionally, of application integration and middleware, there always been this component of didn't buy from any vendor, that relied on roll-your-own components," Debbie says.

The availability of open source middleware and solutions also provides deployable solutions to corporate departments that can't get past the budget committees. "I think open source is serving that group of people who maybe didn't have budgets, but also didn't want to go through the hassle of getting budget," Debbie says. "If you don't have the budget, or you don't have the wherewithal to go through the process to get the budget, you can download open source and try it out, and also have some great fun with it. because you can get into the code, you can modify, you can extend the code."

Debbie also pointed out that many FUSE customers started their open source SOA journey with small projects, but in many cases, these grow in scope across enterprises:

"A small project starts using open source, because they didn’t have budget, or just because of ease of getting the software and trying the software out. And then they prove that it works, and that it works really well. And that expands into an enterprise usage of open source. So more and more, we are seeing more enterprise adoption, such as Sabre, where they’re standardizing across the very large organization on open source."

Another trend within open source communities is to have a large segment of developers or "committers" on a vendor's payroll. While this raises the risks of too much influence by and dependence on a commercial vendor, the balancing factor is a larger support organization.

Another advantage to the open source approach is that products get designed and tested based on the input of a broad community. "FUSE and ServiceMix are developed in a very diverse community," Debbie says. "Because of that, you see a lot of requirements come in from people that are in different types of environments. So, inherently, you’re going to be able to support a lot of different technologies. It really does require you use open standards, and align by the standards."

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