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Enterprise Service Bus Effort Under Apache Incubation

The Apache Software Foundation is now incubating a web services broker/ Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) project called Synapse. The new effort aims to provide an open source implementation that will challenge existing commercial implementations that are based on proprietary protocols.

According to the Synapse proposal submitted to the Apache Software Foundation,"Synapse will be a robust, lightweight implementation of a highly scalable and distributed service broker / ESB based on Web services specifications."

The effort is being backed by Blue Titan, Infravio, Sonic Software, Iona and WSO2.

"It started with us and Infravio and then it grew thru various connections to the current cast of characters," Sanjiva Weerawarana Founder, Chairman & CEO of WSO2 told internetnews.com. Weerawarana is also a member of the Apache Software Foundation as well as the WS PMS and a committer to the Apache project. WSO2 is a Web services software platform startup company.

The Synapse effort aims to construct components that will ,"work together with Axis2 and other Apache and open source projects to create a flexible transformation, management and routing system."

The term Enterprise Service Bus (ESP) is somewhat of a contentious term to some and the Synapse proposal goes into detail about what they specifically mean by the term. Sonic Software itself an ESB vendor (as well as an initial committer to the Synapse project) said that Synapse wasn't a full blown ESB.

"This project is related to ESB , but it is not in itself an ESB," Dave Chappell, Sonic Software's VP and Chief Technology Evangelist told internetnews.com,. "What Synapse bring to the table is a mediation framework that allows users to get in the middle between service requesters and providers and perform various tasks – including transformation and routing and that helps to promote loose coupling between services "

Davanum Srinivas Co-Founder & Vice President of Engineering at WSO2 and also a member of the Apache Software Foundation said that whether Synapse is intended to be an ESB is a tough question because the definition of an ESB is nebulous.

"If anyone says "hey it's an ESB" then it is an ESB," Srinivas said. "But the bottom line is we want to build components that can talk to each other using pure web services protocols."

WSO2's Weerawarana added that the function is basically a web services intermediary functionality. He went on to explain that the functionality could be used to build an ESB (like Sonic may), or to do policy based management (like Blue Titan may) or just to provide an environment for mediations (like WSO2 may).

"So while Synapse will indeed be usable on its own right, it will definitely be something that'll contribute to larger stuff too," Weerawarana said.

Regardless of how you define the ESB functionality, Synapse is all about standards. "Synapse is important because every other implementation of an ESB/Broker/Gateway is implemented using proprietary protocols and web services support are layered on top of that," Srinivas explained. "For us the core and guts is all the WS protocols."

The project will not "commoditize" ESB either, according to Sonic Software's Chappell. Chappell noted that Synapse will provide a common framework that both the open source community and vendors alike can agree on.

"We have plenty of things as an ESB vendor to compete on and to differentiate on," Chappell said. "We'll continue to innovate and provide things like our continuous availability architecture, management infrastructure and value added services."

Chappell argues that rather than commoditizing ESB, Synapse will help to drive convergence for the common things and help promote interoperability.

"Synapse will provide a common ground or a common set of components that can be used across ESB or across web service management platform," Chappell said. "It allows us as vendors who compete in those spaces to focus on our own particular value-add."