Integration stacks explained and compared

A good explanation of integration stacks (including EAI and BPM) by Greg Wdowiak. He makes a nice distinction between task flow management in the EAI layer and business process management in the BPM layer:

The Task Flow Management function of the broker coordinates relatively simple, short time activities amongst the integrated systems… The Task Flow Management function service translates the business task into a set of lower-level (often application specific) technical tasks.The Business Process Management function (BPM) coordinates long-running business processes. In many aspects, BPMS resembles Task Flow Management function. BPM differs from Task Flow Management in that:

  • It is geared towards managing tasks that may range from hours to months in duration. BPM persists its state in a database.
  • BPM focuses on business-level tasks, frequently tasks that are performed by humans. To support such tasks, BPM support sophisticates access control and authorization models, escalation procedures, task delegation, etc.

He goes on to compare the integration stacks of TIBCO and IBM, including the history of what was developed internally versus what was acquired, although he’s missing a few details about the BPM side of things since his expertise appears to lie at the EAI end of the spectrum (for example, the InConcert BPM product, now owned by TIBCO and probably soon to be discontinued, was originally developed by XSoft, a division of Xerox), but I think that this is a work in progress.

I really like that way that he overlays the five technology layers (connectivity, MOM, transformation & routing, task flow, and BPM) with the various products from both vendors so that you can see what’s what: something that most vendors don’t do, so it’s very hard to tell what portion of the stack that a product covers.

TIBCO and IBM definitely compete head-to-head technically at the MOM layer: I’ve seen a lot of holy wars about TIB/Rendezvous versus MQ Series in my financial services customers, and usually they end up with some of each, although MQ has a large enough market share to be considered a de facto standard. At the BPM layer, however, it’s hardly a fair fight: Staffware is recognized by Gartner as one of the top two or three pure-play BPM products, whereas MQ Workflow doesn’t even make it onto the chart. I wouldn’t be surprised to see IBM replacing MQ Workflow, or radically overhauling it, in the near future in order to remain competitive and get on Gartner’s pure-play BPM radar.

Greg’s impressions of the vendor smoke screens are bang-on:

IBM constantly re-brands products (most recently, pre-pending all names brands ‘WebSphere’) making it difficult to understand… Both [TIBCO and IBM] stacks include products with overlapping functionality. It is not clear from the vendor which product should be used under what circumstances; rather, both vendors attempt to create an impression of perfectly coexisting and augmenting each other components.

Some things never change.

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