Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ranking the SOA vendors... Starting with the Big Boys

Update: There is now a 2nd attempt at this that I'm happier with.

Like everyone else out there I've read the various analyst reports on SOA stacks, visions, products and all of those elements. So I thought I'd have my own crack of the whip at rating what is out there, the following assessment is just my view based on using the products, talking to the vendors and should be taken with the same pinch of salt that all analyst reports should be accompanied with.

Rather than rating every product I've decided to split it into four groups
  1. The big boys - SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM
  2. The pack - BEA, Sonic, Sun, RedHat/JBoss
  3. Going to be bought or die - the rest
The last group, and some could argue if Sonic should be in there, are those elements which are either at the cutting edge or are for people who (IMO) are missing the boat. I'll start with the big boys.

Group 1 - Rating the big boys - Today

These are the companies where you are probably going to have some of their SOA suite whether you like it or not. You've bought the ERP, welcome to the SOA type of thing.

First Place
IBM - Clear and out there by a mile and a half.

SCA, SDO, ProcessServer, SOMA and a decent set of research creds, IBM are the intellectual leaders in much of the SOA space. Thought-leaders in the standards space. They've got a full stack of technology to match pretty much everyone.

The only criticisms I'd level at them is not being totally honest on product life expectancy, I mean two years ago WBI Server with Crossworlds and MQWorkflow was a vibrant product, now it makes CICS looks cool. The "Advanced" ESB that is MQSI (possibly the most re-named product in the history of IT) can't be far behind. The other element is when Rational will catch up with SOA and when IBM will actually have an SOA tool rather than just process oriented tools. Currently there isn't really a joining vision like ESA or Fusion its all a bit disjointed.

Need to:
Be more honest about what they are doing. Get a real vision for the future and drive everything towards that. Need to admit there is a level about WBI Modeller that they just don't have yet.

Oracle - Hey look, technology that can work with multiple vendors.


Oracle's strategy of buying smart has given them a stack that is heterogeneous out of the box. Good applications server base, good and improving security suite, top notch BPEL product and the start of BAM. Killing interconnect was a good move, and they've even started moving the Application platform over to using the app server, though it will take a while. Good grasp and pushing of standards. Very complete stack, and an amazing change in the last few years away from its "all in the database" towards a middleware view.

Lack of a decent ESB, and a stripped down BPEL engine doesn't do it for me. An obsession with their own middleware framework (remember BC4J? Well now we have ADF) that surely can't last. They too don't have a decent service modeller, or any service modeller in fact, and the number of "services" being generated out of apps seems to indicate a real desire to create quantity over quality, and they look suspiciously like stored procedure front-ends.

Need to:
Complete the suite, this means a good ESB and getting a decent business service view of what Apps should look like, not a "we've got more services than SAP" dick-swinging competition.

Third and Gaining
SAP - The last to the party.

Speed to market, sure they've been developing everything themselves, but its what 3 or 4 years since they had nothing now they have an integration suite, Process engine, Portal, J2EE application server and a vision for SOA called ESA. Very impressive and the products are improving. Good grasp and pushing of standards

Still seeing the world in SAP coloured glasses, SAP to SAP is great, but lots of the world isn't. Very very process oriented view of the world, many of the "services" they are exposing are singular process (hell like Oracle its database oriented).

Need to:
Complete the suite, for them this means admitting that there is more than SAP in the world. Again like Oracle they need to stop going for volume in their "services" and create a decent business service view of their suites.

Must try harder
Microsoft - Oh dear where is the strategy?

Decent base technology and one of the few Business oriented SOA approaches with Motion.

Weaknesses: No obvious strategy, Window Workflow has a different base to BizTalk 2006, BPEL support remains static and there is nothing in the ESB space or really for enterprise workflow. Failure to adopt or push open standards and a totally new modelling approach that is still unproven. Biggest challenge appears to be that the enterprise software revision is waiting for Longhorn Server, not even Sun are dumb enough to link an OS upgrade with Enterprise software features.

Need to:
Buy BEA, or get a vision for SOA that allows the enterprise to evolve at a different pace to the operating system.


miko said...

Any rankings for the independent best-of-breed vendors?

Anonymous said...

SOA Vendor? What is an SOA vendor! You don't need vendors to be doing SOA. When are people going to understand that SOA is about architecture and not about tooling, etc.

Steve Jones said...

Working on a decent way of ranking vendors, text is rubbish, which will include the best-of-breed niche elements.

In terms of what is an SOA vendor, totally agree that an SOA vendor is about what you do rather than products. What I intend doing is trying to represent how they deliver on the architectural promise of SOA. Tooling is important though as if done well it can help ensure the architecture is delivered effectively, otherwise its just bad old word documents.

Gary Marshall said...

Anonymous was right. SOA is NOT a product, it's an approach that, in itself, isn't necessarily distributed.

The fact is, SOA without a decent light-weight, event-driven, ESB is a missed opportunity, and an ESB built around MQ/JMS is definitely not light-weight.

A light-weight ESB based on EDA with volatile AND persistent, virtualised messaging and distributed transactions is the place the big guys will eventually need to be.

So why do none of the big guys seem to be thinking outside the box yet? For example, why does every road still lead to monolithic application servers? Where are the distributed application frameworks?

Who is providing virtualised, abstract data access across federated data sources?

The fact is, these require a distributed, event-driven service based infrastructure that is lightweight and FAST

As night follows day, the top SOA vendors will become the top EDA/ESB vendors as they can swallowing the real though-leaders.

Anonymous said...

Hey, What about WebMethods & TIBCO ..?

gcarey said...

See the first thing on this blog:

"Sunday, April 30, 2006" that is the most important thing to note and it should be required on all blogs... A date of when all the comments were posted. This idea of not posting a date so that it may be interpreted as being current by default is crap and should be outlawed from all and every blog and blog posting. I would like to see 4 years, now , later if these bloggers would like to update their comments and rate their vision of the future that they had when posted.