Sonic ESB Bridges Apps

Bus server offers sophisticated communications.

Sonic ESB 5.0

Globally distributed organizations will find the message-queuing backbone and content-based routing features in Sonic ESB well-suited as information distribution mechanisms for critical data. The product is Java-centric, and Java and JavaScript developers are required. However, Sonic ESB does allow connectivity from Microsoft environments. Purchase costs are $10,000 per server CPU.
















  • PRO: Builds on a proven message-queuing framework that provides quality-of-service guarantees and supports load balancing for high traffic volumes; uses industry-standard XSLT language; supports built-in content-based routing.
  • CON: Tools to transform messages are not integrated into the administration tool, and the built-in text editor is poor; no code generation features to simplify calling out to an external Web service to retrieve data; message-queuing framework introduces administrative complexity.

• IBMs WebSphere Business Integration Message Broker • Microsofts BizTalk Server 2002 • SeeBeyond Technology Corp.s eGate Integrator

Tying far-flung organizations and applications together is always a challenge for IT staff.

Sonic Software Corp.s Sonic ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) 5.0 provides a set of tools leveraging the companys message-queuing technology that allow programs to communicate with one another in more reliable, secure and manageable ways.

The software, which became available in April, provides message workflow plans (which it calls itineraries) created using its graphical tools.

It also enables users to programmatically define content-based routing rules for messages.

Itineraries define the workflow that a particular message follows in any given Sonic ESB message flow. For example, a human resources application could kick off a workflow process by sending an XML message to the starting queue in the workflow when a new employee is hired. The message would be sent using a SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or a native Sonic message- queuing message, and the data would then be automatically routed from that point onward by Sonic ESB.

At each step in the workflow, data can be transformed with an XML XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) script, routed to other points in the itinerary using JavaScript code, duplicated or manipulated using Java code.

As with previous versions, Sonic ESB will require Java, XSLT and JavaScript programmers to be assigned to any implementation efforts.

In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that while Sonic ESB 5.0 doesnt provide the level of SOAP or developer tool support we would like to see, its foundation is strong. Organizations already using message-queuing approaches will find the product a natural fit.

At $10,000 per CPU for deployment, Sonic ESB is also less expensive than competitors in its market space; these rivals typically cost $100,000 and up. Sonic ESB runs on Windows, Linux and all major Unix operating systems.

Sonic ESB is a renamed and updated release of SonicXQ 1.5, which shipped last year. Sonic ESB begins the process of tying SonicMQ 5.0, Sonics established Java Message Service-based message-queuing server (included with Sonic ESB 5.0), with the XML editing tools and XML database server the company gained through its acquisition of Excelon Corp. in December.

Now supported is preliminary integration with Sonics high-quality Sonic Stylus Studio XML editor, included with the $3,750 Sonic ESB Professional Developer Suite, a developer-only version of Sonic ESB. Stylus Studio can open and edit XML and XSLT files from Sonic ESBs file repository.

Stylus Studio also provides graphic transformation maps between source and destination schemas to make XSLT code easier to write, but wed prefer integration directly into Sonic ESB. Sonic ESBs built-in text editor is primitive, even without comparing it with what Stylus Studio provides. Being able to edit and create transformations and routing code from one environment with automatic transformation metadata creation would be a compelling change.

Microsoft Corp.s BizTalk Server and BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic Workshop automatically generate transformation and routing code in the process of graphically creating message flows, an approach that allows for faster development and easier modification of transformation logic down the road.

Sonic ESB doesnt provide any high-level application or protocol connectors on its own. Connectors are provided for SonicMQ queues, JCA (J2EE Java Connector Architecture) connectors, a JCA-to-Java Database Connectivity bridge and Enterprise JavaBeans running in BEAs WebLogic Server.

Sonic provides other types of connectivity (such as for enterprise resource planning applications) by reselling Information Builders Inc. subsidiary iWay Softwares large suite of connectors.

Sonic ESBs message-queuing foundation is a core strength of the product. We could choose from a wide variety of connection options between servers.

These choices include TCP/IP- or HTTP-based communication; encryption or no encryption; authentication using user IDs, LDAP directories (new in SonicMQ 5.0) or X.509 certificates; point-to-point or message broadcasts; and guaranteed-exactly-once, at-least- once or best-effort message delivery.

The package also lets administrators set up weighted round-robin load balancing among a server cluster for better performance.

This is the kind of power and flexibility needed for enterprisewide deployments that SOAP does not provide, but message queuing also comes with attendant administrative complexity in terms of setting up and managing all those queues.

However, SOAP is rapidly gaining security and reliability mechanisms and is doing so in ways that will be supported by most of the industry, so we see it carrying a much greater percentage of this kind of application-to-application traffic in coming years.

Sonic ESB supports SOAP clients calling into its services to send or receive data, but it does not currently have tools to get data from other Web services (unless that logic is written using Java and a third-party Web services library).

Sonic officials said a more automated method to make external Web services simpler to access is in the works for the next major Sonic ESB release, scheduled for the first quarter of next year.

West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at