The EAI fray gets busier

Application server player BEA Systems Inc. and messaging vendor Sonic Software Corp. are joining traditional enterprise application integration (EAI) companies such as Tibco Software Inc. and webMethods Inc. in the EAI fray.

The process of integrating multiple applications that were independently developed, use incompatible technology and, very possibly, remain independently managed, is a daunting task.

In recent announcements, Sonic Software said it is leveraging its strengths in message-oriented middleware to handle integration, while BEA is pushing the application infrastructure approach based on its new WebLogic Server 7.0.

Sonic Software is riding on its key offerings – the JMS (Java message service) SonicMQ and an “enterprise services bus” SonicXQ — to offer independent software vendors (ISV) and system integrators (SI) an asynchronous platform for integration.

“We want to provide a standards-based way of integrating solutions, of connecting disparate applications, or the back office with Internet applications,” said Asia Pacific managing director Christopher Yeo.

According to technology evangelist Rick Kuzyk, the industry is moving towards the streamlining of processes and connecting islands of data. “Integration is a great focus, and Web services is a way to provide standards-based integration,” he said.

Sonic Software’s EAI strategy is based on the concept of a service oriented architecture (SOA) characterized by loosely coupled asynchronous messaging, allowing connections to be made even if one party or the other is not available. Central to the architecture is SonicXQ, an “enterprise service bus” which enables services to be exposed to one another via a messaging bus. According to Kuzyk, the SOA is a distributed processing framework for creating, deploying and managing distributed services across the enterprise. These include key XML processing services that are important for mapping other services together.

For example, the first process on the itinerary may be a transformation service to convert incoming documents to a format compatible with that of the internal systems.

Next step could be to do a credit check, in which case SonicXQ can provide a way for the process to consume Web services for a credit check. “The distributed processes link services and enables transactions between them,” said Kuzyk.

BEA, on its part, is positioning its WebLogic Server as the core of its application integration infrastructure.

Speaking at a recent BEA Enterprise Platform Conference, Lim Chin Keng, Asean Technology Officer of BEA Systems Singapore, said integration with the existing structure takes place below the server, while above is the “portalization” of services. “These are combined to give a single, unified, easy-to-use infrastructure platform for application development, deployment and management,” he said.

Version 7.0 of the WebLogic server features compliance with the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.3, with EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) 2.0 support. Like the Sonic Software approach, it will also allow message-driven JavaBeans, paving the way for the creation of asynchronous architectures in J2EE applications. This will boost client application productivity by freeing the client to perform other tasks while the back-end server handles processes, enabling high system availability.

Boosting its Web services capabilities, BEA is adding a full UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) implementation besides supporting the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and WSDL (Web Services Description Language) Web services standards.

Traditional EAI vendors such as Tibco Software tended to target specific vertical industry integration needs. Tibco developed products for solving specific business integration needs such as Tibco Real-Time Trade Management for the financial services sector and Tibco Real-Time Customer Service for the utilities sector.

According to Tibco, its new products use industry-specific business processes based on best practices gained from specific industries. They address integration needs unique to different industries while supporting industry standards.