Sun Moves Gingerly Toward Open SOA Platform

In a bid to woo smaller companies and independent developers, Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) has incorporated open source elements within today’s release of Java Composite Application Platform Suite (CAPS) 6, the latest version of its suite for building service-oriented architecture (SOA) products.

CAPS 6 blends open source code from the Open ESB project with the closed code of the 5.x set of releases.

It is architected around the Java Business Integration (JBI) standard, which “reduces vendor lock-in — when things go south with one vendor, enterprises can move to another because their value is in the content, and not the middleware,” Mark Herring, Sun’s vice president of software infrastructure marketing, told

JBI is a Java-based standard that facilitates SOA integration of Java-based applications.

SOA is built around the enterprise system bus (ESB).

An ESB is software that provides a standard infrastructure incorporating distributed processing, intelligent routing, security and dynamic data transformation. This makes application and process integration easier.

Sun’s move to incorporate open source is a purely business decision — with its quasi-open ESB, Java CAPS 6 “gives us a whole new market to go after — the developers and startups who see that Open ESB is freely downloadable and available,” Herring said.

“We took many different functions from our CAPS suite, specialized them into a subset and are offering that to these customers,” he said.

Data-management strategy

Today Sun also released its master data management (MDM) package, which was developed because customers have difficulty getting a full view of their data as they deal with multiple systems, Herring said.

MDM consists of tools and processes that consistently define and manage reference data in an organization, ensuring that it does not use multiple, potentially inconsistent versions of the same master data.

Like other MDM products, Sun’s newly unveiled MDM suite gives businesses the ability to identify their most valuable customers and cross-sell or up-sell them rapidly.

For example, it would let a retail chain’s outlet print out a coupon at the cash register after immediately identifying someone as a longtime customer.

“We’ve very much become a real-time society where you don’t want to wait for the business to do a batch process and send you a coupon a week later,” Herring said.

Whether Sun’s quasi–open source approach will help it penetrate new markets is not certain.

Several open source ESB projects leverage the JBI standard, including Apache Synapse, MuleSource, Apache ServiceMix, Red Hat’s JBoss and Iona’s Celtix project.

In addition, WSO2 offers an open source enterprise bus based on the Apache Synapse project, and Petals provides a lightweight, highly distributed and scalable platform for both application to application and business to business integration.

Will Sun go fully open source in the long term? Market pressures may force it to do so.

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