EAI's new look

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The rise of Web services has compelled enterprise application integration (EAI) vendors to retool their product strategies.

Vendors are moving upstream from the adapter space, the lowest level of EAI functionality that Web services have reached. Rather than compete against Web services, the EAI vendors support protocols such as Extensible Markup Language and Simple Object Access Protocol.

"The pure-play EAI [vendors] all have the ability to support the provision or consumption of Web services out of the box," said Jonathan Hill, associate partner for enterprise integration and market intelligence at Accenture. "What will continue to happen is that each vendor will monitor and analyze each one of the different [Web services] standards and decide when to adopt them."

Amid this adoption process, vendors report that traditional EAI has become a smaller part of their business. "Today, I would estimate that what is classically viewed as EAI is, at most, 10 percent of what we provide," said Don Adams, director of security and government in the office of the chief technology officer at Tibco Software Inc. Tibco's main focus is on guaranteed messaging, management and monitoring.

Hill said the Web services approach is aiming above the adapter area, targeting such functions as messaging. As more capabilities become commercially available, EAI vendors will need to further differentiate them. "Each vendor has to move higher up the stack," Hill said.

Vendors have moved into areas such as business process management (BPM) and business activity monitoring (BAM). BPM "tracks business transactions that might span multiple systems and might live from minutes to days," states an EAI Industry Consortium white paper. BAM, an outgrowth

of BPM, provides notification when a given business process requires

intervention.

Steve Craggs, a vice chairman of the consortium, said EAI has morphed into BPM and BAM.

The EAI evolution won't stop there, however. BAM, for example, will delve deeper into business analytics and decision support, Hill said. Vendors may also cultivate development environments that create Web services-based

applications.

But as EAI changes, some elements endure. Even EAI's adapter role may not completely disappear. Xavier Alire, manager of IBM Corp.'s Software Government Briefing Center, said the need for specialized adapters would persist, particularly when it comes to legacy applications.

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