The Serious Synergy Between SOA and Open Source

Analyst and fellow blogger Joe McKendrick beat me to the punch on the interesting findings from a recent Unisys-sponsored survey by Forrester Research on open source use in enterprises. The bits on SOA (service-oriented architecture) were particularly revealing, and add more grist to the mill of evidence building around the compelling economics that bind open source products and SOA activities.

“Seventy-one percent of 400 executives viewed open source software as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for consolidating IT infrastructure,” he says. “In addition, 57 percent of respondents characterized open source as important or very important for facilitating the migration to a SOA. At the core of these responses is SOA’s ability to extend the life of legacy applications. Forrester also said that 78 percent of respondents were favorably disposed toward open source software because of its open standards, which is a major factor driving their view of its value for SOA next-generation enterprise architectures.”

Other Developments

Joe also points to another article by OpenLogic CTO Rod Cope that highlights one author’s short list of open source projects that aid and abet SOA. However, there are some other developments too in the field that I’d like to point to that further support the pivotal role open source will play as service providers and enterprises adopt SOA principles.

Most importantly is the expected delivery in Q4 of this year of a comprehensive open source SOA platform stack from Red Hat and its JBoss unit. The goal is to take the best of open source platform, middleware, tools and SOA infrastructure (such as ESBs — enterprise service bus) and package them for volume viral delivery to the market, with a simplified pricing model (based on a “server instance”) for support. The goal is to appeal to the SaaS (Software as a Service) providers and service providers, demonstrate the technology and economic value there, and then take it all out to the large global enterprises, said Sacha Labourey, JBoss CTO, during a chat I had with him at last week’s JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Red Hat had a spate of announcements last week that followed a similar roll-out set from JBoss the week before that undergird this mounting 2007 open source onslaught by Red Hat around SOA and other software development and deployment strategies. Labourey expects an acceleration in the already swift vendor consolidation trend in the vendor industry supporting SOA. He’d also like to see more commonality between JBI and ESBs, saying that JBI 2.0 needs some “fresh air” while ESBs could benefit from tighter Java support.

A Worthy Competitor

It’s just this sort of thinking that makes open source a worthy competitor to commercial code approaches, and the often long decision cycles, in the IT vendor market. I discuss many other ways that open source, community development and embrace of ecologies of participants support the SOA marketplace in a recent podcast I did with IONA Technologies, which sponsored the production costs of the specialized B2B content. Have a look or listen.

I also had a recent chat with Byron Sebastian, CEO of SourceLabs, about the burgeoning role of open source for mission-critical computing. SourceLabs is working to “professionalize” the wider adoption of open source components, making it “safe and easy,” as well as “dependable.” Any open source code can fit into SourceLabs’ management system, which aims to fill a similar role of that of the enterprise procurement process for commercial products — except with how companies get and use open source code.

SourceLabs expects open source for SOA to be huge, and it is gearing up to manage the movement to and support of open source code products for SOA, especially in environments where compliance and risk management play a large role.

Market News

Also big news on the SOA/open source front in recent days: A large, European concern that has had an SOA environment in production for five years is apparently spinning it off to an open source community. A new proposal for an SOA framework runtime project within includes word that Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN) will contribute its custom-developed SOA platform to the proposed project.

The proposed SOA Runtime Framework Project could show how user organizations such as DPWN can swiftly catapult mission-critical infrastructure for SOA into an open source community, with the potential for significant disruption in the world SOA marketplace.

Speaking of consolidation, I also recently hosted a BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition podcast with a panel of independent IT analysts and journalists, and an interesting take-away was general consternation at IBM and its “last mile” to SOA approach. After discussing how TIBCO and JackBe are offering what amounts to end-to-end SOA — with a messaging infrastructure extending to RIAs/AJAX clients from the server core of SOA — the panel wondered if IBM’s Lotus offerings are enough to stay current in the market.

That prompted speculation that IBM might (should?) consider a purchase of a TIBCO or JackBe to complete the equation. That would make sense, I dare say.

A Dynamic Convergence

Lastly, other chats I had at recent IT industry events (JavaOne, Web 2.0 Expo) also centered on speculation around mergers and acquisitions. One insightful lad had HP buying Red Hat (too expensive, I said). Another had HP buying Novell (too interesting, I demurred). The net-net was that HP has a large strategic choice on SOA to make ASAP, but that the consensus was that open source would play a very large role in HP’s SOA plans regardless. No one suggested that HP buy BEA.

So there you have it: A slew of areas in which SOA and open source are in some kind of important, dynamic convergence. Thank goodness we have Forrester Research to let us know about it.

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also producesBriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Disclosure: HP and IONA are sponsors of BriefingsDirect business productivity podcasts.

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