IBM announced an exhaustive list of initiatives around SOA, including new software and service initiatives. Perhaps what raised the most eyebrows at the product launch briefing was the introduction of two enterprise service buses (ESBs) -- one for simpler installations, and another for environments requiring a more sophisticated message broker.
A mini-ESB and maxi-ESB, if you will.
Big Blue's WebSphere ESB, the mini-ESB, is a "small, lightweight ESB" intended for rapid deployment. "The WebSphere ESB product is really there for customers who are looking to base their deployments around a set of open standards," according to Robert LeBlanc, general manager for WebSphere for IBM's Software Group. "What we're seeing with the WebSphere ESB is the requirement really comes with small projects or departments rather than full enterprise."
The maxi-ESB, called WebSphere Message Broker, is designed to provide universal connectivity and data transformation for applications, whether or not they comply with standards. "The advanced ESB, which is the message broker, provides a lot more of that high scale, high availability, lots and lost more connectors that enables customers to truly build out a services-oriented architecture at an enterprise level," said LeBlanc.
Not everyone thinks ESBs are the best way to go in the long run for SOA development, however. I received a note from Cape Clear's Annrai O'Toole, for example, who seems less than impressed with IBM's newfound love of buses. "ESB is just another buzzword," he sniffs. "A true ESB should simplify your operations, not complicate things. IBM will try to convince you to spend gobs of time and money on their SOA. Then again, here’s what you’ll get: a small army of consultants, a dozen barely related WebSphere products on 75 installation CDs, ongoing, costly consulting services, vendor lock-in, and higher total cost of ownership."
For its part, IBM says it's simply responding to what customers need and want, and that is ESBs. "ESB is really two design patterns that we're starting to see evolve with customers," said IBM's LeBlanc. "One is a very basic pattern in which customers are trying to connect Web services... Then we've got the advanced ESB, based on our WebSphere message broker, that takes all of these standards-based Web services, and enables them to be connected, but enables you to connect to non-standard sets of interfaces. Because that's what customers are faced with integrating. They're having to integrate all of these back-end systems, and all these interfaces, some of which are proprietary, some of which the customers themselves have built. The message broker allows you to then to connect up all of those pieces."