Turning Integration on Its Head

By John Moore Print this article Print

The standard definition of service-oriented architecture is still being debated. But semantics aside, companies are using a variety of frame-works to integrate applications—and increase efficiency.

Integration was once the province of custom-built adapters that linked one system to another. The resulting point-to-point integration created a tangle of interfaces that were difficult to maintain. Then came middleware and enterprise application integration offerings that sought to make custom integration a commercial product.

Since 2000, service-oriented architecture, or SOA, has taken up the integration banner. This approach replaces proprietary middleware and enterprise application integration technologies, with Web services as the standard protocol set for doing so.

Web services, which provide common building blocks for assembling service-oriented architectures, use protocols based on eXtensible Markup Language (XML), a data format that lets applications share data. With Web services, an application exposes its functionality—order processing, for example—as a modular service that other applications may request. The XML-based Simple Object Access Protocol, or SOAP, lets the service requester and provider exchange messages—requests for data—via HyperText Transfer Protocol. A message broker routes the messages to the right place.

And, as the technology changes, so have the vendors that provide enterprise application integration. Old-line integration software vendors such as WebMethods, IBM and Tibco Software have exchanged proprietary technology for Web services as they take on service-oriented architecture.

Susan Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research, a Lexington, Mass., market research firm, says the enterprise integration vendors' heritage has positioned them for the SOA market. "Those integration products became the SOA engine," she says.

The engine, a collection of software components, incorporates many of the functions of enterprise application integration products, including the core messaging capability that lets applications communicate in a service-oriented architecture. According to WinterGreen, other SOA engine elements include portals and application servers.

Eustis says the enterprise application integration vendors' technical background and sizable installed base give them an advantage over newer entrants in the SOA market.

A WinterGreen report released in May cites IBM as leading the SOA engine market with a 53% share. Tibco, BEA Systems and WebMethods have market share, but none above 3%, according to the firm. Microsoft, Oracle and SAP also are active in the space. Overall, the research firm predicts that the worldwide SOA engine market will more than triple, to $3.7 billion in revenue in 2013, from less than $1 billion in 2006.

The integration vendors' repositioning in service-oriented architecture gives their installed base a leg up in SOA migration, according to some observers.

"Most definitely they can reapply this existing technology for SOA," says Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at Baltimore-based ZapThink, which specializes in service-oriented architecture research.

"That's a huge jump-start," Eustis adds. "They have the engine in place and don't have to go through the agony of installing an engine."

This article was originally published on 2007-07-19
John writes the Contract Watch column and his own column for the Channel Insider.

John has covered the information-technology industry for 15 years, focusing on government issues, systems integrators, resellers and channel activities. Prior to working with Channel Insider, he was an editor at Smart Partner, and a department editor at Federal Computer Week, a newspaper covering federal information technology. At Federal Computer Week, John covered federal contractors and compiled the publication's annual ranking of the market's top 25 integrators. John also was a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of Computer Systems News.

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