Thursday, March 22, 2007

SOA Vendor Ratings - Q1 2007

It was back in May last year that I did my first assessment of the "main" SOA vendors, so first up I'm going to revisit that list, then I'm going to add in (and I really will this time) assessments from some of the smaller players and open source. As ever the following is my view, nothing to do with who I work for and can't be assumed to come close to reality etc, etc, etc.

This assessment has the same summary info as the previous one which means

1. IT Vision - What are they going to do in IT, implementation of applications, integration with backends, sort of the technical end of SOA
2. IT Implementation - Great powerpoints guys, but what about the products...
3. Business Vision - What are the doing for the business, what is the content and how will it work for the business
4. Business Implementation - as before, what exists beyond the powerpoints
5. Standards - SOA implementation is massively about standards, how much does this company implement and drive standards
6. Stability - How stable is the current product set and roadmap, will they be shifting strategy and leaving you in the lurch, or going out of business and doing the same

This time however I'm going to go a bit deeper on the actual vendor reviews. So first off here is the summary

Now you will notice that everyone has shifted quite a bit on the business vision side, this is partly because they have but also because I've broadened out the business side to include the operational challenges of managing SOA at the business level. Oh and you'll also notice there are two IBM assessments... which probably makes that a good place to start

N.B. The blue line is my assessment of "now", the redline is my prediction for where they will be in 3 years time.

So why are there two IBM assessments? Well the first one is based around the roadmap that IBM tell everyone, the one that still includes MQSI, sorry "Advanced ESB". The second one is based on what I think is the real roadmap and this comes from bitter experience of watching clients with MQ Workflow and WebSphere Interchange Server believe that they would continue as well. I don't buy the Advanced ESB line, and I don't buy the "you've got to use a proprietary product that is a bugger to install" rather than a single standards based platform and I really don't buy the "There are things that MQSI^H^H^H^HAdvanced ESB does that just can't be done in J2EE". Hence the reason there is the IBM assessment based on IBM
and my view on their "real" roadmap
Lets be clear here, J2EE is the way forwards for IBM. Having something that has a completely different development, deployment, management and versioning approach makes no sense and what is left that is important can't be done in Process Server et al today? A bit of multi-protocol support and the ability to do COBOL Copybook? The shame is that IBM do have in their J2EE based stack a really good set of products for developing applications. They are still pretty weak at the business and pan-enterprise level but they have added the registry and of course have one of the broader tooling suites out there. Oddly however this tooling support doesn't appear to extend to testing where the async testing support appears to be limited to JUnit, which isn't exactly great as JUnit is poor at async (as I know from testing an MQSI infrastructure using JUnit). With CBM they actually have a business modelling approach, but unfortunately that still looks like its considered "special" so isn't yet in the tool suite so everyone can use it. Good suite, good for applications, good vision (where it isn't subverted) but they are a bit weak across the enterprise they really need to start being honest around their roadmap so people can start planning for the Java based solution that is bound to come.
Well they've bought a few more companies and the Aqualogic and Weblogic brands are really beginning to take shape. They still don't have anything in terms of methodology at the business service level and this really is going to be an issue in the coming years. They've started talking about the situational applications (Aqualogic area) and this split of backend handling and business focus really does make a lot of sense.
They really need to beef up around the governance and testing side though, it really isn't good enough to have a "preferred" partner, its either "use what ever you want" or its "in the box". Testing especially is an issue, they don't have any async testing which isn't great for projects and future viability. The current messages around Tuxedo as a very expensive Adaptor for mainframes is also a bit odd, hence the knock down there. Great product suite, great stack, good split of business and technology, but they need to focus more around the operationals for SOA in the same way as they have previously done around the application server.
You really have to give the folks at Oracle credit, this time last year they had no ESB (except if you believe some of the analyst reports) and to be honest I thought it was going to take them a long time to get something that is properly separated. Sure there is the continued huge focus on "BPEL" as the answer to world hunger but there is certainly something coming together. This year is a big year for them as its the release of version 11 of the stack, with their membership of both the JBI and SCA/SDO camps its going to be very interesting to see the quality of what comes out in that new version.
Weak in the "business side" particularly around the modelling piece (and a great big EA tool is not the answer IMO) the operational side of the tool is okay but where they really shine out is around the testing, they actually have some async testing that can be linked back to a continual build, see it is possible. Integration is okay but a bit basic right now and the designer elements of the tool aren't really up to snuff from an SOA perspective. A good stack, an amazing rate of acceleration but its fair to say that there are still plenty of areas for improvement for the 11 AS release.
The gap between Oracle and SAP continues to widen in terms of the independent viability of the middleware stack. They've had some good thinking around the futures of all of this and the visioning is strong, the question is whether they can ever separate the Packaged application futures from the demands of the middleware, its a similar problem to the one that Microsoft have, but at least with SAP they are binding it to actual business value and business information.
Basically if you are doing SAP then its worth doing, and indeed its probably the only way, but if its a choice as a broad technology stack across the enterprise then this probably isn't the one you are looking for.
Will Sun deliver on the vision that was put forward last year, or will an EAI centric view of SOA emerge? There is lies the basic dilemma for Sun at the moment. They have a good EAI centric product in JCAPS (the old SeeBeyond stuff) and a great set of future tools (As demoed by Charles Beckham for me at JavaOne last year) the challenge now is to make that tooling shift while keeping the solidity of the underlying platform. At least with SeeBeyond and JCAPS its all based around J2EE so they don't have the mess that some others have.
The thing that knocks Sun down from an application development and operational perspective is that the current tools are very "me" centric, by that I mean that they assume that everything runs on JCAPS, the other knockdown is the debacle that is JavaSE 6 which really doesn't help the perception of Sun as a company that wants to solve enterprise problems. I really hope Sun bring it all together and start focusing up at the business problems where they currently aren't really involved at all. Great integration stack, really good for doing interfaces onto systems, needs to broaden out (using the tools that they actually have) into being an application stack and from there on towards the business.
Microsoft's progression around SOA since last May? Well they've released an operating system which has a proprietary async process model in it and they have a decent client side development model for web services.... Linking technology so directly to an operating system release is just plain bonkers, its as dumb as putting a Web Service stack into the JavaSE 6 release.

BizTalk remains the "heart" of much of the SOA messaging but its essentially the same product as 2004, which isn't great. Everyone else has moved on and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft come up with something equivalent to SCA, or even adopt it now its going into OASIS. With the Longhorn release due this year its really time for them to step up the focus around the enterprise and particularly improve their lifecycle and design support tooling. Microsoft Motion is a good business focused way of creating views on an enterprise, but unfortunately it appears too often to have been subverted into a "buy product" pitch. Either Microsoft want to play in the enterprise software space or they've decided that its not worth the effort, this year should outline which of those it is.
The ratings and categories explained
Now a quick summary on what the ratings actually mean, first off this is an assessment against what "perfect" would be today, rather than all time perfect (i.e. if someone stays at the state of the "now" then they'll always be a 5. The numbers are as follows
  1. Very very basic, not really functional
  2. Basic, meets some powerpoint and demo needs, but not much else, might be via a 3rd party to make it actually work.
  3. Can be used by the skilled
  4. Actually a pleasure to use and helps you move forwards
  5. Cooking with Gas
So really its an exponential scale rather than linear.

Now for the categories
  • BSA - Business Service Architecture, the ability to model the enterprise as services
  • BSB - Business Service Bus
  • BPM - Proper SOA and business centric Process Management
  • Registry - A service registry
  • Management - Ability to manage and configure operational services
  • Monitoring - SLA and monitoring of services and interactions, independent of the vendor
  • Testing - Testing of services at all stages of the lifecycle, especially async testing
  • App Design - Ability to develop applications that consist of multiple services
  • App Dev - Ability to develop services and applications that co-ordinate them
  • App Process - Application level process models (where BPEL sits) and its ability to work in a proper SOA way
  • App Model - The overall conceptual model of SOA applications that the vendor pushes
  • ISB - The integration service bus, getting things out of older systems
  • Adaptors - How easy is it to get things out of old systems
  • Int Model - Integration Model, the conceptual model that the vendor pushes for integration
  • Standards - How well does the vendor implement and support standards
  • SCA/SDO - How well is the vendor progressing down the SCA/SDO path
  • JBI - How well is the vendor progressing down the JBI path
  • WS-* - How well is the vendor at supporting WS-* (WS-TX excluded)
  • J2EE - How well do they support J2EE (standardised operating environment = lower support costs, no matter how much people bleat)
  • Roadmap Honesty - How well (IMO) does the published roadmap reflect what will really happen
As ever comments welcomed, particularly in this case in terms of what I should assess next.

UpdateTo be clear this is about the Technology vendors, for those looking to start SOA the this is the secondary thing the most important is knowing what the actual services should be.

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Anonymous said...

Your view of ESB is too Java centric ... you include the immature SCA which is not implemented as yet AND a clone of WCF, which is years ahead on the messaging stack and pretty much mature, but you do not include WCF itself ...
on the WS* standards Microsoft (and IBM) are also much ahead of others like Oracle and Sun(Sun is terrible on standards implementations)
Besides, SUN and Oracle are not much represented at clients sites on ESBs, teh usual suspects are MS, BEA and Iona (Which you forgot to mention)


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Interesting comments, but I do not believe that IBM will consolidate their products on the app server. For one thing, IBM products never seem to go away. Another, I don’t think they will re-write MB and MQ as JAVA apps. IBM has lots of overlapping products. Look how many databases they have.

You might be interested in this post and there are several others on ESB product evaluations.

Eric Roch

Unknown said...


My view is deliberately Java centric because have a standardised language and platform makes support easier. I did mention WCF, its the client side bit, but there is no way that WCF can be compare with SCA (the pre-standards version of which is in the IBM Process Server product set) as SCA is a lifecycle approach that includes execution and deployment while WCF is a development framework. I'm going to pick up on Iona in the next raft of evals, but if people are using MS as an ESB (I've only seen it as a process engine and a hub/spoke) then I'd say its probably more marketing over content, in the same way as people using MQSI are deluding themselves.

MQWorkflow and Interchange Server have both gone, users of those have to move to the new J2EE based stack. In WebSphere 6 IBM did in fact replace MQSeries as the messaging layer and built a new messaging infrastructure that doesn't even use the same paradigm as MQSeries. I love MQSeries, its a great product and it will remain as a way to get data from a massive array of systems, and hopefully IBM will fix the WebSphere 6 to MQSeries clustering issue (unless there has already been a patch that I missed). My point is around MQSI, what is the functionality in there that means that a proprietary product is a good choice for an enterprise? I just don't see that. I don't think they will rebuild all of MQSI on J2EE (they'd leave out eSQL for starters) but I can't see a logical reason that MQSI doesn't go the same way as the other two products that altogether were the flagship "WBI Server" suite from 3 years ago.

Ian Cartwright said...

Isn't SOA an architectural style rather than a product I can buy off the shelf? I worry people will see the survey and make a technology led decision, rather than assessing their business needs first. I've put my more detailed comments on my blog.

Unknown said...

Ian, if someone reads this blog and thinks that SOA is about technology then I'm clearly not ranting enough! I could have said "SOD IT Vendor Ratings" but I'm not sure most people would have known what I meant.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve:

What you are really comparing are system integration vendors, not exactly SOA per se. SOA is one way to achieve system integration, which is through architecture and methodologies, but you can't label these vendors as if they sell SOA because they don't.

On the above post, comparing WCF to SCA is like comparing apple to orange. WCF, like you said, is a development framework which developers can use to build applications with SOA in mind. WCF is a technology whereas SCA is an approach. Heck, if Microsoft supports SCA, we might even see SCA somewhere in MSFT technologies maybe as part of WCF.

As Stefan said, your view of SOA is too technology-centric. Almost half of your benchmarks are Java specific technologies and "standards".

I applaud your effort but what you are really comparing is system integration products.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Good overview but TIBCO is definitly missing (even if they are expensive)

On your links section you have a link to Edwin Khodabakchian, which is invalid, he has quit at ORACLE and is working on a startup

Anonymous said...

I agree that IBM will continue to build out the JAVA based stack. But, I think I will probably be retired before MQ and MB are. It's really a dollars and cents question for IBM - not just technology.

I thought you could still buy and IBM still supported MQWF. It's still on their site as such.

InterChange server was probably a money losing product for IBM and it was a confusing overlap.

Eric Roch

pat p said...

Hi Steve,

Interesting reading.

Unfortunatley you have called Sun's product by something other than it's name. If it is abbreviated it is called Java CAPS. The full name is the Sun Java Composita Application Platform Suite. It has never been called JCAPS.

Anonymous said...

How would you have rated HP on this, given the recent acquisition of Mercury (and hence Systinet)?

Anonymous said...

You may want to get an update on what Sun is doing by checking out the latest version of Open ESB (

Anonymous said...

interesting stuff but miss TIBCO and the Open Source Stuff like ServiceMix, Celtic , JBoss and sopera here.
Oracle's foundament which is the AS is still quite weak in comparison to BEA WebLogic or WAS and a nightmare to deploy and to put into production on major sites.



Ameya said...

Dear Steve,

Nice research you have put there. I am doing some research as on SOA as it is one of the projects that I have chosen.

I need info on SOA in global banking industry. Can you please help me out with this? Can u please give me some data pertaining to the Banking industry( trends, growth, market scenario, future markets, major players, etc).

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you address some of the smaller focused vendors like weblayers? Don't you beleive in order to mkae the 3 year roadmaps you defined companies reviewed will buy versus develop solutions? Therefore aren't the little guys worth a bit of text?

Anonymous said...

What about strategic it software called Metis from Troux? Has anyone tested or used it?

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