Sun integrates SeeBeyond, but is it SOA?

Michael Meehan, News Writer

Last Thursday, Sun Microsystems Inc. completed its acquisition of SeeBeyond Technologies Inc., officially making it a player in the integration market. Now it must migrate the SeeBeyond product away from its proprietary, point-to-point roots and into a loosely coupled, service-oriented world.

The $383 million purchase was announced on June 28 during the JavaOne conference. For years before the deal, SeeBeyond had been developing its integration suite using Sun's Java tools, including NetBeans, Web services APIs and libraries, making for an easy assimilation.

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We never recommend companies buy more integration middleware.
Ron Schmelzer
AnalystZapThink LLC

In fact, immediately on the heels of the official merger, Sun branded the SeeBeyond product the Sun Java Integration Suite, making it the sixth suite in its Java Enterprise Server family, along with its already well-established identity management and application development offerings.

"Ten minutes after we closed the deal, we put together a suite," said Mark Bauhaus, Sun's vice president for Java Web services. "It was fairly easy to bring it within our walls."

SeeBeyond brings AIX and z/OS coverage into Sun's repertoire, along with a greater variety of Linux flavors. It also brings a Business Process Execution Language engine.

SeeBeyond has built an agile integration suite with a particular strength in the healthcare market and is involved with some major SOA projects, such as the one being undertaken by Britain's National Health Service. But SeeBeyond's core product is still a pre-SOA enterprise application integration tool, and many analysts take a dim view of EAI these days.

"We never recommend companies buy more integration middleware," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at Waltham, Mass.-based ZapThink LLC. "That's the tightly coupled world people need to get away from."

Schmelzer believes the challenge facing Sun is "to make SeeBeyond customers into SOA users."

Bauhaus said version 5.1 of SeeBeyond's Integrated Composite Application Network (ICAN) Suite will be released in the first quarter of 2006 as planned. Further details about its roadmap for the integration suite will be revealed over the next 90 days.

Whether it will morph ICAN into a true Enterprise Service Bus, following fellow platform vendor BEA Systems Inc. into that market, remains to be seen. Bauhaus did, however, stress the important element SeeBeyond brings into the Sun family: It allows users to model business processes from the top down instead of just building up to the process level using a Java-based tool set.

The ability to support dynamic business processes and work with composite Web services is critical in SOA, but Schmelzer stressed that doing it in a one-to-one fashion misses the point.

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"When they say service-oriented, they mean they've got Web services interfaces," he said. "We're not talking about architectures of agility here. They apply so much glue to infrastructure they end up gluing customers in place."

That is why he believes the migration path Sun lays out will be more important than the acquisition itself.

"They need to show people how they're going to get to a composite SOA suite," he said. "It has to prove that it gets it."

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