Sonic Adds SOA Governance To ESB

Sonic Software is raising the bar in ESB capabilities with plans to add business-savvy SOA governance and policy management to Sonic's ESB capabilities. The move follows the $32 million purchase of Actional Corp. by Sonic's parent Progress Software. IDN talks with Sonic CTO Gordon Van Huizen about how the acquisition will impact architects and developers.

Tags: ESB, SOA, Business, SOA Governance, Capabilities, Visibility, Business Transactions,

Sonic Software is raising the bar in ESB capabilities with plans to add business-savvy SOA governance and policy management to Sonic's ESB capabilities. The move follows the purchase of Actional Corp. by Sonic's parent Progress Software for $32 million. IDN talks with Sonic CTO Gordon Van Huizen about how the acquisition will impact architects and developers.

Under the purchase, Progress/Sonic can bring two key business events-based capabilities to their extensible ESB architecture.

  • Actional's Looking Glass, which uses non-invasive "ghost agent' technology to track end-to-end business processes and provide visibility into the activity of services and message flows through the SOA network. Looking Glass also dynamically maps and monitors every step in the process. Across app servers, databases and network appliances; and

  • Actional SOAPstation provides a SOA intermediary which provides a variety of SLA-related management and enforcement, including policy-based security and access controls.

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    The Actional acquisition will not materially change Sonic's core ESB architecture, nor alter the company's ESB Definition, revealed earlier this month, Van Huizen told IDN. However, the addition of Actional's SOA governance and visibility features may change the scope of ESB capabilities, and present enterprise IT architects a stronger reason to consider ESBs as a core SOA-enabling technology.

    Here's more from our IDN onversation with Van Huizen.

    An Integration Developer News
    With Gordon Van Huizen, CTO
    Sonic Software

    IDN: What does the acquisition of Actional say about what customers are looking for as they evaluate ESBs, especially with regards to their longer-term SOA strategy?
    Van Huizen: ESBs in general have not directly targeted the issue of SOA governance, at least from the point of view of discovering business transactions that are going across an SOA and also applying policy enforcement to different users. While an ESB today is an outstanding way to establish control across an environment, and can offer great visibility into the ESB itself, it doesn't on its own provide visibility or policy enforcement beyond that.

    IDN: And customers would like ESBs to provide more visibility and governance capabilities across the transaction?
    Van Huizen: Yes, and let me put that in context of what we're seeing. Organizations are taking SOA more and more seriously as core infrastructure and as a result getting IT is getting more interested to SOA governance, as well as interest in the controls and coordination that an ESB provides.

    IDN: What about the idea of 'ilities' or 5-9s? How good a job do customers or prospects think ESBs are doing on that front?
    Van Huizen: Well, ESBs provide 5 9s today. We can assure that business transactions are executed, and get routed no matter what. Today, ESBs can give you a great amount of control over that.

    IDN: But not all IT architects want that at the bits level. I mean wouldn't they rather have that at the transaction or logic level?
    Van Huizen: Yes, that's correct. There tends to be in virtually all ESB products a focus on individual services themselves, without offering users a spanning view of the business transaction. And also, ESBs don't instrument other types of end points so if a business service is deployed in a J2EE environment, ESB doesn't have visibility into that environment itself.

    IDN: Do you see the Actional acquisition helping Sonic address these business-level transactions concerns?
    Van Huizen: Yes, Actional will allow us to monitor what is going on at a logical level - and do it across any form of infrastructure that supports the business transaction. The technology also lets users establish global policies for the use of services in that environment regardless of what infrastructure is in place. You can define access policies, SLAs, issues related to process versioning in a global way.

    IDN: If you had this capability 6 months ago, do you think you enterprise customers would have been more receptive to ESBs for their SOA plans?
    Van Huizen: A: Well, that's an interesting way to put it. But, yes, I believe that these SOA governance products, and particularly Actional, will remove a whole lot of the [hand coding and design] needed to connect into existing security infrastructures.

    IDN: Was the lack of this SOA visibility just a minor concern among enterprise managers, or had it become a deal-killer?
    Van Huizen: I think it was a deal-killer, in fact. As IT managers look more closely at the SOA plans, and consider how ESBs will play a role, there were 2 things they were concerned about. One: To what degree could an ESB vendor provide visibility and policy enforcement across their mixed infrastructure? . And, Two: How well-implemented was the software? So, we had to have both the things right - we had to have the model right and also have the implementation right. Actional is a big step in both directions.

    IDN: How does the Actional acquisition affect Sonic's ESB Definition?
    Van Huizen: It doesn't affect the def whatsoever, although it may alter people's perception of the long-term value from an ESB, because you get both ESB and SOA governance. But this doesn't alter the definition of the ESB itself.

    IDN: So, you don't see Actional's SOA governance capabilities affecting Sonic's ESB stack or architecture?
    Van Huizen: It may at some point, but we're not pushing on that. We are planning to offer Actional's capabilities as an extension to the Sonic ESB, and that will be offered either through a tight integration with Sonic's ESB or by loosely-coupled web services.

    IDN: The loosely-coupled approach would let Sonic ESB customers use another SOA governance product??
    Van Huizen:Yes, and the other was as well. People using the Actional platform could also use another ESB.

    IDN: Does Sonic see Actional's focus on metadata to help provide business analysts access to these services -- not only IT -- as important?
    Van Huizen: Absolutely! You will see announcements tying monitoring and management closer to business analyst needs.

    IDN: Do you think the addition of Actional's governance and business-level capabilities to the Progress/Sonic portfolio opens Sonic up to more partnerships with system integrators?
    Van Huizen: Yes, it certainly does. The new breadth of offerings now helps Sonic be a one-stop shop for an SI looking at SOA. Acquisitions can certainly do a lot for how a vendor is perceived in the market.