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Open source progresses into back-end integration

Celtix project, started by Iona and hosted by ObjectWeb, will create freely available, Java standards-based integration server.

Continuing open source's encroachment into server software, Iona Technologies and an industry consortium launched on Monday a project for back-end integration.

The project, known as Celtix, will be based on a code donation by Iona. ObjectWeb, a nonprofit consortium of companies and government agencies based in France, will host the project.

ObjectWeb already houses several open-source projects for middleware, including the Jonas Java application server.

The intention of Celtix is to create a low-end, freely available integration product that adheres to Java standards. A standards-based integration server, which use messages to carry data between different programs, is called an enterprise service bus.

The Celtix software is a subset of an Iona product called Artix, which links together existing computing systems, said Eric Newcomer, Iona's chief technology officer. ObjectWeb expects to release the Celtix software by the end of the year.

By creating an open-source project, Iona intends to encourage the use of ESBs over proprietary integration software. And because Celtix and Artix are based on the same code and have a similar method for creating add-ons, Iona hopes to lure customers to its high-end product as their needs grow, Newcomer said.

"Most industries and the IT industry have a commodity or entry-level product and a higher-priced product that provides premium services," Newcomer said.

Several different back-end middleware providers are converging on ESBs and standards-based integration. IBM and BEA Systems have voiced ESB plans, while smaller vendors, including CapeClear, Sonic Software and Fiorano, have had products for a few years.

Messaging "plumbing," such as ESBs, which deliver XML documents between programs using Internet protocols, are considered an important infrastructure component to service-oriented architectures.

Corporate customers are warming up to service-oriented architectures, or SOAs, as a design approach that promises to be a cheap and flexible way to access corporate data.

"This elevates open source into the realm of SOAs," said Dana Gardner, a Yankee Group analyst. "If this is a successful development and project, it could go a long way to making SOAs faster, better and cheaper because you don't have to master (high-end) middleware."

Celtix is built around a Java specification now completing the standards process called Java Business Integration or JSR 208. With Celtix, a programmer can write a Java program specifically designed for sharing data and transactions between different applications.

Open-source middleware provider JBoss is expected to launch its own open-source ESB based on the same Java specification.

Iona, which distributes the JBoss application server with its own software, originally approached JBoss to host its Celtix project but ultimately went with ObjectWeb instead.

"ObjectWeb has a good community around it with a beginning of a good track record in open source," Newcomer said.