IBM acquires Cast Iron

castironI am currently at IBM’s IMPACT show in Las Vegas, where the WebSphere brand gets to flaunt its wares, and of course one of the big stories was IBM’s announcement that is has acquired Cast Iron.

While Cast Iron may only be a small company, the acquisition has major implications. Over the past few years, Cast Iron has established itself as the prime provider of Cloud to Cloud and Cloud to on-premise integration, with a strong position in the growing Cloud ecosystem of suppliers. Cast Iron has partnerships with a huge number of players in the Cloud and application packages spaces, including companies such as, SAP and Microsoft, and so IBM is not just getting powerful technology but also in one move it is taking control of the linkage between Cloud and anything else.

On the product front, the killer feature of Cast Iron’s offering is its extensive range of pre-built integration templates covering many of the major Cloud and on-premise environments. So, for example, if an organization wants to link invoice information in its SAP system with the sales force environment,  then the Cast Iron offering includes prepared templates for the required definitions and configurations. The result is that the integration can be set up in a matter of hours rather than weeks.

So why is this so important? Well, for one, most people have already realized that Cloud usage must work hand-in-hand with on-premise applications, based on such things as security needs and prior investments. On top of this, different clouds will serve different needs. So integration between clouds and applications is going to be a fact of life. IBM’s acquisition leaps it into the forefront of this area, in both technology and partner terms. But there is a more strategic impact of this acquisition too. Noone knows what the future holds, and how the Cloud market will develop. Think of the situation of mainframes and distributed solutions. As the attractions of distributed systems grew, doomsayers were quick to predict the end of the mainframe. However, IBM developed a powerful range of integration solutions in order to allow organizations to leverage the advantages of both worlds WITHOUT having to choose one from the other. This situation almost feels like a repeat – Cloud has a lot of advantages, and some misguided ‘experts’ think that Cloud is the start of the end for on-premise systems. However, whether you believe this or not, IBM has once again ensured that it has got a running start in providing integration options to ensure that users can continue to gain value from both cloud and on-premise investments.


Microsoft and ESBs – what a shame!

I was recently doing some research into the latest state of play in the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) market, and decided to take a look at Microsoft’s ESB – or rather its pretend ESB.

I had never been sure about Microsoft and SOA- it tends to focus instead on BizTalk and the Microsoft world. However, recently I have heard a lot of encouraging noises from Microsoft about its belief in SOA, and how it sees BizTalk as a key component in an SOA architecture for application design and deployment. But I must admit I had not realized that Mircosoft gave any credence to the ESB concept.

With an element of hope I delved into Microsoft’s ESB stuff – only to be disappointed to discover it is not an ESB product at all, but ‘ESB Guidance’, a collection of samples, templates and artifacts to deliver ESB functionality. In essence, Microsoft does not yet acknowledge the existence of the ESB class of product, preferring instead to take the old IBM line of a few years back pretending that an ESB is a style of implementation rather than a product. However, I thought, this doesn’t really matter as long as Microsoft offers ESB functionality, however it packages it.

But then sad reality dawned. Microsoft ESB Guidance is not even supported. It is a collection of samples and pieces offered on an ASIS basis, take it or leave it. Use it if you like, but don’t come to us with any issues or problems. How disappointing. See the Microsoft Guidance notes –

The Microsoft ESB Guidance for BizTalk Server R2 is a guidance offering, designed to be reused, customized, and extended. It is not a Microsoft product. Code-based guidance is shipped “as is” and without warranties.

So, it looks like Microsoft isn’t really on the ESB bandwagon yet. The new release of BizTalk Server this year may introduce a ‘real’ ESB, but at this point in time Microsoft appears to be paying lip-service to SOA compliance, but not actually doing much about it.