Iona Jumps On Open-Source Bus

Vendor is contributing its Java integration technology, called an enterprise service bus, to the open source community.
Iona Technologies Inc. said Monday it plans to contribute Java-based middleware, called an enterprise service bus, to the open-source community, hoping to boost the use of the application-integration technology within service-oriented architectures.

Iona, an Irish company with its U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Mass., plans to contribute the Java ESB to ObjectWeb, an open-source community focused on middleware. The project will be named Celtix.

Middleware is the software layer that sits between the operating system and applications on each site of a distributed computing system. An ESB is a standards-based message broker that provides interoperability between enterprise applications via extensible markup language, or XML.

Proponents say ESBs are important for enterprises looking to use existing applications within a service-oriented architecture, an evolution in distributed computing that connects software in order to automate business processes. A SOA uses web services standards, which is application-integration technology based on XML.

Some analysts, however, are skeptical. Ronald Schmelzer, analyst for market researcher ZapThink LLC, questioned the need for a ESB or an open-source project to build more middleware for a SOA.

"Companies already have enough infrastructure to implement SOAs," Schmelzer said. "It doesn't necessitate buying more middleware. In fact, a lot of middleware exacerbate the problem, because your buying middleware for your middleware."

An SOA can usually be implemented using a company's current application-integration infrastructure, Schmelzer said. Instead of ESBs, enterprises are buying registries from companies like Infravio Inc. and Systinet Corp. and other software tools related to helping expose applications as services within a SOA.

Iona sells a web services-based ESB called Artix, and plans to continue selling the proprietary technology to large companies looking to integrate complex business software, such as a customer-billing applications, into a SOA, Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer for Iona, said.

Celtix, on the other hand, is more of an entry-level technology that's better suited for departmental-level projects within an enterprise, Newcomer said. Also, the technology only supports Java applications.

"We're really trying to broaden our approach to businesses by opening up a new line of business through the open-source product," Newcomer said. "We feel there's two different markets for the products right now."

Iona does not believe Celtix would eventually take business away from Artix, which is mature technology in the integration market, Newcomer said.

"We feel we can stay ahead of the game," he said.

Part of the "core" ESB technology Iona plans to contribute to ObjectWeb are application programming interfaces, or APIs, to make it easier to plug-in existing or new Java applications, Newcomer said.

In addition, Celtix will support the Java Business Integration specification, which provides similar capabilities. JBI is new technology developed by the Java Community Process, an industry group responsibile for the development of the Java platform. Java-creator Sun Microsystems Inc. leads the JCP.

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