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This is one of the biggest, longest, most open secrets in the Web services management (WSM) arena. All the serious action in the WSM space is at the intermediary nodes, which are increasingly becoming full-fledged application layer routers, competing with the likes of Cisco (which traditionally has operated at the network layer).
No one has doubted for the past several years that Cisco would eventually muscle its way in the application-layer router market—most likely through strategic acquisitions. Cisco has yet to fully show its hand in that regard, but it undoubtedly will come out with scalable, clusterable, hardware-optimized layer-seven router appliances that play nicely alongside its core layer-three routers and traffic management products. I’d be very surprised to see layer-seven router-appliance WSM vendors DataPower Technology and Sarvega stay independent for much longer. They’re achieved enough of a headstart in that niche to make them quite valuable—or quite threatening--to the Ciscos of the world.
Increasingly, the enterprise service bus (ESB) will be an internetwork of layer-seven intermediary nodes. These intermediaries will facilitate transmission, routing and/or transformation of messages between ESB endpoints. Intermediary nodes in an ESB environment will perform any or all of the various message-oriented middleware (MOM)-oriented services, including queue management, brokering, routing, bridging, leveraging, wrapping, passthrough, bridging, and abstraction. An ESB intermediary will also function as an integration broker, orchestration engine, adapter engine, SOAP router, protocol gateway, and/or WSM agent. These intermediaries will increasingly be large, fast, powerful blade/grid servers executing a wide range of functions on a heavy traffic load.
Cisco will just be another purveyor of these intermediary appliances, and not necessarily the principal vendor. Middleware vendors such as IBM, Tibco, Sonic, and others will remain significant forces in the ESB market, as will dominant platform vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle. But Cisco will effectively leverage their layer-three dominance into a respectable share of the layer-seven market. When they actually make the leap into that niche. Which should be soon.