Pointer to article: http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/software/story/0,10801,107867,00.html?source=NLT_PM&nid=107867
ESB is the most promising new middleware approach. ESB generally refers to integration software that supports simple, expedited, loosely coupled, standards-based, service-oriented integration. It also refers to a segment of middleware market that converges the best features of message-oriented middleware, integration brokers, and Web services.
The ESB market is heating up, but possibly also melting down. In the past month, we’ve seen two ESB vendors—Sonic Software (an operating unit of Progress Software) and Systinet—merge with SOA governance vendors: Actional and Mercury Interactive, respectively. ESB environments need the policy-driven management provided by robust IT governance tools.
However, neither Sonic/Actional nor Mercury/Systinet will be able to compete for long against the SOA platform vendors—especially IBM, BEA, Oracle, and Microsoft—who are adding ESB and IT governance functionality to their suites at a rapid clip. When the ESB market matures by the end of this decade, ESB pure-play vendors will find their value proposition usurped by platform vendors that have embedded ESB functionality into their offerings.
Many SOA platform vendors are embedding ESB functionality more deeply into their environments. They do so in order to address a broader range of integration scenarios, to support their own integration software products, and to position their platforms as alternatives to third-party integration software. What, for example, is Microsoft’s Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) if not an attempt to push ESB functionality more deeply into Windows.
In the next 2-3 years, the ESB wave may give some platform vendors an advantage over their direct competitors. When Microsoft delivers commercial WCF--and Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF)--functionality in Vista and “Longhorn,” the company will be able to position its server and client platforms as ESB-enabled out of the box. Microsoft has committed to running WCF on pre-“Longhorn” Windows platforms—Windows XP and Windows Server 2003--as well, which will further strengthen its ESB and SOA story.
Over the next several years, platform vendors who fail to address ESB functionality in their roadmaps will marginalize themselves out of the SOA market. Minor platform vendors won’t be able to survive in a market that will eventually be dominated by SOA platforms. Systinet did the right thing by seeking out and finding a suitor, though the combined Mercury/Systinet is on no one’s short list of leading ESB/governance vendors.
At the very least, all platform vendors will need to implement WS Reliable Messagnig (WS-RM) in their architectures in order to enable reliable, guaranteed, once-only delivery of SOAP messages over Web services environments. Any SOA platform vendor that fails to do so, and clings tenaciously to its proprietary middleware, will find itself shut out of the ESB space.
By the end of this decade, ESB functionality will just be common-denominator functionality implemented on all platforms, leveraging the industry’s common denominator interoperability stack: the WS-* stack. As ESB functionality becomes ubiquitous in application platforms, pure-play ESB middleware vendors will find the going tough. Today’s ESB middleware market segment will fade away, absorbed into the SOA platforms that will dominate all distributed environments. In order for these SOA platform vendors to distinguish their commoditized ESB features, they’ll have to keep evolving up the functionality stack, adding Web services management (WSM), dynamic content-based routing, distributed transactions, and other advanced features.
As regards WSM functionality, there’s little of that in today’s ESB market—that’s why the merger of Sonic (the ESB pioneer) and Actional (one of the WSM pioneers) is so significant. ESB vendors will layer WSM functionality on their product architectures in the coming years. It’s very likely that other WSM pioneers, such as AmberPoint, will find suitors in the ESB space. Another likely development is for network appliance vendors—such as Cast Iron Systems, Cisco Systems, F5 Networks, and Solace Systems—to reposition their products as high-performance ESB message processing nodes.
ESB-enabled SOA platforms will dominate, and also accelerate the decline of today’s separate ESB middleware market. The rest of this decade will see ongoing acquisitions, mergers, and consolidations among platform and middleware vendors. In particular, Sonic, TIBCO, Cape Clear, and Fiorano, though currently positioned well in the ESB space, won’t survive unless they partner or merge with SOA platform vendors. The surviving ESB-enabled SOA platforms will probably number no more than a handful.
No, I'm not placing any bets. Not a betting man.