Business Integration Software Bakeoff Idea

In my random browsing of the internet, I came across Wikipedia’s comparison of Business Integration Software. I’m so WebSphere focused that I didn’t even know there were this many companies out there with “ESB” products (34). It sparked an idea in my head, I wonder what it would be like to bake-off all these solutions against a common scenario. I like to think I’m a typical Business Integration specialist. I have a large java development background and understand all the core SOA concepts. I also tend to pick up new software pretty easily. I’m thinking that I would come up with one or two standard integration scenarios and blog about the pain and misery that was required to install, develop and run the solutions.

This is more or less a brainstorm as I don’t think I really have the time to go through installing 34 product, plus the issues of getting licenses for the closed source products etc. I actually don’t even know how baked the open source stuff is, so it’d be interesting to see if it performs better or worse that good ol’ closed source WebSphere.

As for the scenario, I think the first would be creating a composite service out of multiple preexisting web service end points. Bonus points for integration directly with a database (as I find this to be the most common). I also realize that some ‘esb’ products actually just behave like mediations and only take one request and transform it into another request, so I think the second scenario would cover this type of usage.

I think each product would be rated on a scale of 1-10 on how easy it is to install (runtime and tool). If I have to read three books to get things configured out of the box, that’s no good. How long it took to implement the scenario as someone with zero previous product experience and only using product documentation, Google would be allowed if error and exceptions occured (with point deductions). How elegant the solution is, a self-documenting system is preferable to a mishmash of hacks and configuration files. I wouldnt’ want to include performance of the resultant system (transactions/min) as this is usually a process that all servers required. They can’t know out of the box what the load of a system would be.

I welcome all readers to drop their two cents as to what they would want to see as a scoring system, or for that matter, any input at all 🙂

Author: dan


  1. Hi there.

    Our customers struggle with the same thing. For example, we’ve helped a customer to produce an integration product shortlist that contains the usual suspects, and have then also produced a sample business integration design (a full design with UML model, WSDLs etc) for the customer so that each of the vendors can deliver a sample implementation – and thus can be rated against each other.

    It would be good if we could publicly share the results once this is complete (some months away) – I suspect this is unlikely but I’ll investigate.

    Anyway, I’d be interested to know what rating you expect the WebSphere products to achieve if you executed your ‘bakeoff’?

    Robin Meehan

  2. Hi Robin,

    Sounds to me like you are right on the cutting edge in Business Integration since information like this just doesn’t exist at all. So many unanswered questions about support for OSS solutions, GUIs etc.

    I think WebSphere (like all IBM products) shines on it’s ability to meet technical standards and specifications. My usual line is that “if it doesn’t pass IBM validation, it’s invalid”. And like all IBM products, the UI gets cluttered as it tries to be everything to everyone. Another issue (that the bakeoff wouldn’t touch) is the way products tend to be hell to interact with each other. Inside WID, life is pretty good. Export something from Business Modeler and you start to see the internal divisions between development teams. Usually one product has to shoe-horn its functionality into the models of another, making for a GORP-y solution.

    But I digress. I think WebSphere would be somewhere near the top of the chain. Based on it’s scalability and that it can do everything it says it can. The learning curve through trivial solutions is pretty low, but theres a learning gap between trivial and ‘real world’ (which is kind of the reason I started this blog).

    Cheers for the question, I embrace any opportunity to rant 🙂

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