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Commentary: Smoothing the way for open source

The success of platforms like JBoss, Apache and Jonas will boost open-source integration products--if some key conditions are met.

Commentary: Smoothing the way for open source
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
November 22, 2004, 6:45AM PDT

by Henry Peyret, senior analyst

After a period of testing by early adopters, companies are beginning to use open-source software in the low levels of the integration stack--the transport and transformation levels--in critical projects.

The success of open-source application platforms like JBoss, Apache and Jonas will boost open-source integration products as long as two things occur: first, the fragmented open-source integration community consolidates to compete more effectively with commercial application platform leaders; and second, commercial integration products remain expensive.

What drives the market?
Forrester observes the following critical-change drivers that will affect the market for open-source integration products during the next 12 months:

•  Fragmentation remains a problem within the open-source community. Partly as a result of this, efforts to employ open-source integration products in the enterprise have not yet generated the same enthusiasm that surrounded the adoption of application servers, for example.

•  The price list for commercial integration products remains high. Pure or platform players' integration offerings remain expensive for large deployments--in terms of initial purchase and, more importantly, for maintenance. Even after negotiations that can achieve price reductions of up to 50 percent, these costs look forbidding to many buyers.

Related story

Open-source software starts
to expand into the big-ticket
infrastructure-software market
dominated by Microsoft
and others.

•  IT shops are starting to rationalize infrastructure integration. Large companies are starting to choose strategic platforms that include integration functions. Even so, software groups will still need to fill integration gaps using niche integration products.

•  Packaged applications deliver Web services connectivity. Web services will help solve one of the weaknesses of open-source integration products: last-mile connectivity to either packaged applications or mainframe applications (at the connectivity level, but not yet at the semantic level).

•  Web services standards continue to mature. There is broad adoption of business process execution language (BPEL) and emerging WS-Security standards. However, open-source integration products will continue to suffer gaps in standards, limiting their appeal in the enterprise market.

Trends for 2005
Because of these key drivers, six significant trends will unfold in 2005:

•  Low-level integration products will emerge in critical deployments. In some particular cases--those requiring substantial custom coding even with commercial products--customers will prefer to work with open-source software, such as implementations based on the Java Message Service (JMS) standard. Open-source integration products will also help the process of rationalizing integration infrastructure, by filling gaps and meeting niche requirements.

•  Open-source integration products will keep attracting customer interest. Because of the high purchase and maintenance costs of proprietary products, the perceived low cost of open-source integration offerings will keep buyers interested in taking the open-source option.

•  Convergence of the open-source community will accelerate. The community developing open-source integration products will overcome its natural fragmentation and converge around application server communities like JBoss, Apache and Jonas. These communities, such as ObjectWeb, currently act as facilitators between sometimes overlapping market participants. But even with this greater coordination of open-source integration, systems integrators will still be required to integrate the different building blocks in 2005.

•  Open-source integration products will continue to move up the stack. BPEL-compliant business process management products will overtake players like BIE and Open Wide, which are not compliant. ActiveBPEL is open-source software that is provided free in its light version by a commercial company, Active Endpoints, to boost sales of its enhanced commercial product. JBPM, developed by JBoss, is another example.

•  Lightweight enterprise service bus (ESB) products will start to appear. ESB offerings provide a structured basis for connectivity and Web services deployment across heterogeneous infrastructures. Emerging open-source software products include Mule ESB.

•  Successful integration projects will still include commercial products. Despite Web services, Java Connector Architecture (JCA) and JMS support from application vendors, last-mile connectivity for packaged application adapters remains difficult in open source. Openadaptor and Open3, for example, provide mainly technical connectivity and not packaged-application or much mainframe connectivity. To overcome these limitations, user companies will increasingly combine open-source and commercial integration products and turn to tools like Librados; while this isn't a fully open-source product--the source code is available but not royalty-free--it helps companies that want to deliver end-to-end interface projects.

© 2004, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.