Iona updates app server platform

Application server vendors and enterprise application integration (EAI) companies are turning up the volume in the debate over...

Application server vendors and enterprise application integration (EAI) companies are turning up the volume in the debate over whose approach works best for connecting disparate IT systems and new applications.

Today Iona Technologies will roll out the latest version of its application server platform, Orbix E2A ASP 6.0, which features a host of services to help developers create application harmony across diverse middleware and messaging technologies within their enterprise.

At the EAI end of the spectrum, webMethods last week released plans to bundle open-source JBoss application server into webMethods 6, the latest version of its flagship integration platform.

Iona's ultimate goal with ASP 6.0 is to prime enterprise software assets for integration within a services-oriented architecture. Among its new features is greater support for Web services-enabling existing applications and components.

"You can think of [ASP 6.0] as a way to build the building blocks for integrated systems and services," said Iona director of product marketing Don Roedner. "It is about making it easier to combine things and let multitechnology systems be deployed with specific qualities of service."

Features in ASP 6.0 include a security service that provides a single-point of integration for the mix of enterprise application security functions - such as authentication and authorisation - that are in play across Corba, J2EE, Web services and mainframe systems. The service also allows Corba and J2EE messages to cross firewalls securely when, for example, a Web service request is triggered externally. The capability is expected to banish the need to hard code every transaction step directly into the application.

ASP 6.0 also provides a transparent bridge for applications running on JMS and Corba Notification messaging. The platform now sports a single point for managing, installing, configuring and tuning the multitude of transactions and objects throughout a mixed enterprise environment, which gives users greater "visibility" into their applications.

"Iona might have been taking their Corba base a bit for granted with their Java initiatives, Web services and integration products, but [ASP 6.0] looks to be a way for them to generate more revenue from that installed base now, while also bringing them more up to date with Web services and J2EE," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

Meanwhile, with JBoss, webMethods is enabling J2EE-based components to run directly in the integration server, as opposed to having to call out to an app server as required with earlier versions of webMethods platform. This unification will serve to boost overall performance of webMethods 6 while also allowing developers to write both integration code and application logic from within a single environment, according to webMethods chief technology officer Jim Green.

WebMethods' bundling of JBoss, which it plans to absorb into webMethods 6 next year, is meant to hammer home its notion that that integration platform should serve as the core element of the infrastructure, feeding all other layers in the enterprise stack, according to Green. That position runs counter to that of players such as BEA, which believe development via the app server come first, serving as the foundation on which the integration capabilities are then added.

"The big J2EE application server vendors are betting on getting more converts by going down the road of integration," said Eric Austvold, industry analyst at Aberdeen Group. But these and similar efforts by traditional EAI vendors will face steep competition from the likes of Microsoft, who is exploiting XML and a lower-cost integration environment in BizTalk Server to creep into the market, he said.

Iona's ASP 6.0 will be generally available in 45 days in three editions: J2EE Technology, Standard, and Enterprise Edition. Prices start at $495 (£312) per developer licence and $5,000 (£3,146) per CPU deployment.

WebMethods 6 is available with existing versions using an adapter to make the connection to JBoss. A subsequent point release in early 2003 will integrate the app server directly into the integration platform.

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