Sonic software pushes middleware envelope

FRAMINGHAM (09/19/2003) - Integration vendor Sonic Software Corp. next week will upgrade its suite of integration middleware with a pair of servers designed to help corporate users add business applications into a workflow and process a growing level of XML-based data.

Sonic's Orchestration Server and XML Server round out its Business Integration Suite, which includes Sonic's Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) 5.0. Sonic also is releasing a development tool called Integration Workbench. Technology for all three products was acquired last December when Sonic bought Excelon.

"What do I do with these servers? It's business-process automation," says Dennis Byron, an analyst for IDC. "You pull the whole company together and look at all the resources like they are one application and data source." Byron says he is tracking 50 vendors developing business-process automation software including BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., SeeBeyond Technologies Corp., Tibco Software Inc. and webMethods Inc.

Earlier this month, IBM said it is working on ESB-like technology as a lightweight alternative and complement to its WebSphere MQ middleware.

Observers say the service bus model is a threat to traditional enterprise application integration because it costs less and is more flexible. The model also is a threat to application servers, which create a hub-and-spoke architecture that can become a bottleneck and single point of failure.

"Business-process automation will be to this decade what ERP was in the '90s," Byron says. He says what Sonic is doing with its new tools is creating a full-bodied business-process automation system.

"The ESB is a particular type of service-oriented architecture designed to solve integration challenges," says Gordon Van Huizen, CTO of Sonic. He says the challenge will be to standardize elements of the ESB, such as how to configure, manage and deploy services and standards for routing messages. Sonic is working with Sun to solve some of these issues, Van Huizen says.

The two new Sonic servers and ESB 5.0 create a platform that uses Web services, and traditional integration technology such as routing, reliable message transport, data transformation and management, and monitoring to let disparate applications talk to one another.

The Orchestration Server lets users tie those applications into an organized workflow to complete a business transaction. The server lets users model and deploy a more sophisticated workflow than was possible using only ESB 5.0. The Orchestration Server supports long-running processes and exception handling, which are not available in ESB 5.0

The XML Server filters and translates XML formats and holds data on a temporary basis, such as when waiting for a portion of a transaction to complete as part of a workflow. The server also supports auditing and logging and captures events for trend analysis.

The Integration Workbench is an XML-centric visual development tool for creating connections between applications and ESB 5.0.

Sonic's Orchestration Server costs US$12,500 per CPU, the XML Server costs $10,000 per CPU, and Integration Workbench costs $3,750 per developer, which includes a license to use the servers in a test lab.

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