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spring integrationspringESBenterprise integration patterns 18 Dec 2007 8:55 AM
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The Un-ESB: Spring Integration by kvandersluis

SpringSource recently announced a new project, Spring Integration. See The Server Side at http://www.theserverside.com/news/thread.tss?thread_id=47868 for an active discussion and links to related resources.

Much of the discussion revolves around how the new project works with, or competes against other integration software. I am accustomed to seeing an integration package touted by its marketing department as the new category killer - the best ESB, ETL, EII package available. So it struck me as conspicuous that Mark Fisher, Spring Integration's project lead, failed to categorize the software into one of these well-known (but over-hyped) integration strategies.

From the information I've been able to glean from Mark's blog and the press announcements, the Spring Integration project appears to be a set of tools that let you add ESB-like capabilities to your application. Some of Mark's quotes mimic the value propositions you hear from ESB vendors, for example:

"What this does is it provides a layer of insulation that manages those different endpoints and routes them to the same service implementation..."

It sounds like a service developed using Spring Integration is made available through any number of transports. This is a core ESB feature. So, why wouldn't SpringSource just come out and say that Spring Integration is Spring's implementation of an ESB? After pondering this for a while, I've concluded that its my own biases causing my desire to slap a label on this technology. As project leader for XAware.org, I get questions from analysts and corporate users all the time, asking what category XAware fits into. The analysts like Gartner, Forrester, and IDC educate the masses of corporate management on what technology to buy. A CIO needs to know he's spending 7 figures on the "Best XYZ" on the market. As a software company, you better have a great XYZ to sell to big corporations.

But SpringSource doesn't have to play that game. They're not talking to your CIO. Instead, they are providing technology features directly to implementers. In this case, Mark Fisher and team member Alef Arendsen have both stated that Spring Integration implements integration patterns described by Gregor Hohpe's book, "Enterprise Integration Patterns". You can see many of these patterns at Gregor's site, here:

http://www.enterpriseintegrationpatterns.com/eaipatterns.html

I applaud the SpringSource team for not branding their project an ESB, even though it shares a similar feature set. Though SpringSource has not issued a specific list of patterns supported by the project, I like the direction they are heading. The integration market is fragmented and full of marketing hype. By pointing to well-defined integration patterns, SpringSource strips the marketing glaze and displays a transparency that is very refreshing.



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