Sonic woos Tibco customers

Sonic Software is courting Tibco customers with a new trade-up program for its SOA Suite. But will Tibco customers get on the 'bus'?

When it comes to the enterprise application integration (EAI) market, the views of some vendors are pretty clear.

"EAI is pretty much dead," said Greg O'Connor, president of Sonic Software Corp.

While O'Connor has a vested interest in companies moving away from EAI, his comment does echo customers' desire for more flexible, standards-based architectures for their application integration needs.

There's going to continue to be pressure on vendors like Tibco as messaging and more advanced layers of the SOA stack are increasingly either commoditized or productized by various vendors
Ron Schmelzer
AnalystZapThink LLC

The Bedford, Mass.-based company unveiled a new conversion program last week, in which it will provide customers of its Palo Alto, Calif.-based rival, Tibco Software Inc., with competitively priced licenses of the Sonic SOA Suite.

According to a Gartner report published last November, enterprise service buses (ESBs) will begin to surpass several types of traditional middleware during 2005 through 2007. ESBs are better suited to modern application styles, such as service-oriented architecture, the report said.

Unlike ESBs, which provide "pluggable" connectivity to disparate data sources and service-oriented components, EAI is a proprietary approach to application integration. It can result in tightly coupled components and create greater dependencies on a particular product set.

"With the advent of Web services, it's much more about connecting in a standard way, and being able to do mediation and flow of documents through the enterprise," O'Connor said. "The market has moved beyond the hub-and-spoke proprietary approach that [Tibco] offer[s] to a standards-based ESB."

This doesn't mean that people are simply "ripping and replacing" their existing EAI investments with ESBs. The shift is really occurring gradually, and mostly in new projects, where customers are looking to SOA, Web services and standards-based architectures.

"People don't want to solve their integration problems by [companies] throwing more middleware at them," said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, of Waltham, Mass. "EAI is a temporary solution to the integration problem. Now we're trying to achieve reuse, coarse granularity and loose coupling with SOA."

O'Connor said Sonic is really targeting its conversion program at customers embarking on new projects in which they are deciding between an ESB-based SOA approach and a traditional EAI approach.

Customers currently making the switch from Tibco's Rendezvous and Smart Sockets to Sonic are mostly in the financial and telecommunications sectors, according to O'Connor.

"There's going to continue to be pressure on vendors like Tibco as messaging and more advanced layers of the SOA stack are increasingly either commoditized or productized by various vendors," Schmelzer said.

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Tibco, however, has not been sitting idle. It flexed its competitive muscle with the recent acquisition of Toronto-based ObjectStar, a native mainframe integration provider. The purchase gives Tibco, whose area of specialty has traditionally been messaging and integration, an opportunity to compete head-on with rival IBM in the mainframe integration market.

ObjectStar provides access to databases and transactional systems, such as Adabas, DB2, CICS, CA-IDMS and M204. ObjectStar also has an integrated development environment that analysts predict Tibco might merge into a combined development and integration product set.

Meanwhile, Sonic unveiled this month two new additions to its ESB: the Sonic Collaboration Server and the Sonic Database Service. The former improves business-to-business integration with the Sonic ESB while the latter increases Sonic's portfolio of databases that its ESB can plug into.

"This is no time to be resting on laurels -- Tibco will have to evolve into more advanced functionality. I think we're going to see some interesting developments from them in the near future," Schmelzer said.

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