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25Mar/110

Putting “E” in ESB

Forrester's survey data shows that service-oriented architecture (SOA) still has strong penetration and high satisfaction rates. Even though today's headlines focus more on cloud computing, mobile applications, and social networking, enterprise interest in SOA-related products remains significant. However, among the four major SOA specialty products, enterprise interest has shifted away from enterprise service bus (ESB) products.

Here's a shocker - Enterprise Architecture is hard.

I believe the following are the reasons behind "interest in ESB shift" among the enterprises.

ESB is the heart of SOA, and not many enterprises are willing to undergo "heart surgery" without compelling reasons to do so. For better of for worse, ESB is a "big bang" concept - unless the entire IT eco-system is re-arranged around this fundamental concept there will be no sizable benefits to realize; given a chance, enterprise always will opt for incremental change.

ESB takes concept of software re-use to its logical conclusion, and requires shift in thinking on how software is designed, constructed and integrated. The re-use promise of object oriented paradigm got a lot of attention but ultimately failed to deliver, mostly for reasons that had nothing to do with software engineering.

ESB is hard. No matter how many "SOA for dummies" books are published, the actual implementation is either technologically challenging or expensive, or both. Explaining its benefits to CFO is like explaining theory behind acetaminophen's physiological effects to a five-years old with high fever, except that you do not report to a five-years old.

So, what's the prognosis? The idea of ESB is here to stay; the concept of universal communication channel, its orchestration capabilities, its promise of services reuse make perfect business sense. The actual packaging will have to change ... not unlike bubble-gum flavoring in bitter medicine one has to swallow for his own good.

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