ESBs: the analysts like them, but where's their future?

ESBs are increasingly being regarded as pieces of the SOA puzzle -- not a solution in and of themselves. Thus, their current market run as standalone offerings may be short-lived.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

How long will the ESB market last? The enterprise service bus market has been on a roll, as detailed in two new analyst reports that are detailed in SearchWebServices. 

I talk a lot in this blog about the intangibility of the SOA concept, that there's no such thing as "SOA in a Box." Well, ESBs are the closest thing we have to a tangible SOA product. 

For now, ESBs are hot, hot, hot. But how much longer will they flourish as standalone products?

However, ESBs are increasingly being regarded as pieces of the SOA puzzle -- not a solution in and of themselves. We're likely to start seeing ESBs being absorbed into larger solutions. In addition, the pureplay ESB vendors are recognizing that while companies still seek ESB solutions, they want more; they want ESB functionality in the context of broader SOA offerings. Plus, there are at least five major open-source ESB products now available, which is bound to commoditize the market to a large extent.

For now, however, ESBs are hot, hot, hot. Gartner Dataquest stated that the ESB market "expanded more significantly in 2005 than any other application integration and middleware segment, with 160.7% revenue growth." In addition, Forrester Research now estimates that 83% the largest organizations (with 40,000-plus employees) are using SOA for internal integration -- which means plenty of fertile ground for ESBs to sprout and flourish.

What's the appeal with ESBs? They are quick on-ramps to SOA. Forrester Research's Ken Vollmer said that ESBs are a "straightforward way to get started with SOA and typically a less costly route to application integration than integration-centric business process management (BPM) suites."

Forrester breaks the ESB market into three segments: "pureplay" vendors with roots in enterprise application integration (EAI) and platform players; open source ESBs; and ESBs that are called something else, such as Microsoft's BizTalk.

The article adds an interesting observation that while larger vendors have been adding ESBs to thei product mixes, the pureplay ESB vendors have been expanding beyond the bus. ZapThink's Jason Bloomberg cited Sonic Software as an example of a post-ESB provider:

Sonic is "still leading with their ESB product, but Progress Software [Sonic's corporate parent] has reorganized. It's significant that Progress has realized SOA is more than ESB. They have the Neon legacy integration, they have XML tooling. SOA requires a lot of different pieces. Sonic's leading standalone ESB product is really not standalone anymore. Companies want a more comprehensive solution."

SearchWebServices also provides detailed listings of commercial ESB providers (here and here) and open-source ESB providers here, detailing the nature and background of each offering.

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