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Middleware and SOA appliance adoption on the upswing

Stephanie Mann

Adoption of middleware and SOA appliances is on the rise, experts say. The trend is part of a growing interest in application infrastructure and middleware, a market that analyst

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group Gartner Inc. predicts will reach $20 billion in 2013 -- an increase of $5 billion in just five years.

Middleware and SOA appliances are hardware- or software-based network devices designed to address integration and performance issues. Driving their use is integration complexity, which often demands difficult system development, design, implementation and maintenance.

Organizations are running out of steam with their previous hardware.

Massimo Pezzini,
vice president and fellow, Gartner Inc.

"Appliances are becoming more popular because of the expense of development [and] the crunch on the budget of custom systems," said Richard Ptak, co-founder and managing partner at IT strategy consultancy Ptak, Noel & Associates.

Middleware and SOA appliances help by providing functions such as service virtualization, scalability and networking integration. The market today can be split into two categories: single-function, black-box appliances; and multi-function, integrated systems.

Single-function appliances are designed for particular scenarios and cannot be reconfigured. They focus on a specific function, such as messaging (TIBCO Enterprise Message Service), integration (IBM WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance) or governance and security (Layer 7 SecureSpan Gateways).

Relatively low cost and ease of deployment make these appliances popular among mid- to large-sized enterprises, said Massimo Pezzini, vice president and fellow at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"Today, companies have much broader sets of integration requirements -- you cannot just deploy a big ESB anywhere in your company," he explained. "[Single-function] appliances are an option that provides integration in a very particular way. We see them being used, more and more, to support a need for ever greater interoperability throughout the enterprise."

Multi-function systems such as IBM PureSystems and Oracle Exalogic have a slower adoption rate due to high pricing; still, they have broader uses. "You can think of them as, essentially, a private cloud environment in a box," Pezzini said. These newer offerings include built-in expertise patterns and can be reconfigured to optimize fast-changing workloads.

"There are lots of reasons to look at these systems," said John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "I'm convinced that the benefits of standardization of the platform environment far outweigh the costs."

One advantage of integrated systems is that they can support large applications -- such as e-commerce or Internet banking apps -- from development through to maintenance. Other popular use cases include the consolidation of multiple servers into a single box or fixing major scalability or performance issues.

The biggest reason for adoption? "Organizations are running out of steam with their previous hardware," Pezzini said.

This mainly applies to companies with complex portfolios and challenging system integration requirements. According to Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Needham, Mass.-based technology consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates Inc., "This new generation of systems [is] designed to support a workload that's much more dynamic -- and to do it without the heavy lifting."

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