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2006 continued to be the year of the ESB in terms of new entrants and new products. However, the core problem with the category has not been resolved and in fact have got worse: Although every vendor seems to have one, nobody can agree on precisely what one is.

Throughout my tenure at PolarLake, I believed that (a) there was a need for complex integration middleware to implement an SOA – a view which now has become generally accepted (it certainly wasn’t the case back in 2001 when we started!), and (b) the Enterprise Service Bus would be the title used for the complete stack of middleware required. It appears the industry is speaking or at least mumbling with different voices on this one.

Ron Schmelzer of Zapthink sums up the situation well when he says:

“The ESB craze has entered the final phase with JBoss entering the fray. The real problem is that despite all these vendors entering the market, there is even more confusion about what specific features an ESB must have.”

This makes the job harder for prospective buyers of ESB products in 2007. Right now the ESB tag can mean anything from reliable messaging with bells-and-whistles added, all the way across to what was formerly known as EAI! As there is so much diversity, you need to dig deeper into more products prior to short-listing to see if the potential products are in fact comparable and could in fact address your problem.

The second issue is whether the glut of ESB badged products and vendors can continue and prosper. Both Steve Craggs and Computer Business Review in their 2007 predictions see trouble ahead for ESB vendors. CBR points out that there are already too many ESB vendors and with 4 significant Open Source plays (once JBoss appears), it will get harder for all the vendors and open source projects to stay the course:

“There are more vendors than the market will be able to support in the long term, and this will result in price pressure.”

Steve takes the next logical step and predicts:

“pure-play ESB vendors at least will struggle to be able to sustain a viable business model. On top of this, most of the large IT companies are either producing or have indicated the intention to produce an ESB. As such, pure-play vendors are likely to be squeezed out or acquired, and it is highly likely that at least some of this activity will happen in the next twelve months."


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