Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Busting Synapse and WSO2 ESB Myths

Paul Fremantle, PMC chair of the Apache Synapse project and CTO of WSO2, has written a very interesting blog post addressing some of the myths concerning Apache Synapse and WSO2 ESB. As of now both projects are quite popular, mature and have a very large user base including some of the largest organizations in the world. Surprisingly there are still some people who believe that these projects do not fall under the category of ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) implementations. In his latest post, Paul gives a clear and complete answer to all these misbeliefs, and backs it up with a wide range of facts.
ESB is one of those things in the IT world which don't have a proper standard definition. The best definitions I've come across attempt to align the term along the following cues:
  • An architectural construct that provides fundamental services to complex architectures
  • An entity that acts as a hub connecting many diverse systems
  • A central driver that facilitates Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)
Apache Synapse and WSO2 ESB pass with flying colors on all the above criteria. They provide an array of fundamental services to the systems and architectures that rely on them.  Some of these basic services are:
  • Message passing, routing and filtering
  • Message transformation
  • Protocol conversion
  • QoS enforcement (security, reliable delivery etc)
  • Logging, auditing and monitoring
Because Synapse and WSO2 ESB do such a good job providing these fundamental services, they can be used to integrate a large number of heterogeneous systems in an enterprise setting. As Paul has also pointed out in his post, Synapse and WSO2 ESB are currently used in hundreds of production deployments all around the world to connect various applications, implemented using various technologies (both open source and proprietary) running on various platforms (Windows, Linux, .NET, J2EE, LAMP, cloud..you name it). In other words Synapse and WSO2 ESB are widely used as centralized drivers that facilitate EAI. The configuration model of Synapse and WSO2 ESB is so agile and powerful that practically any EAI pattern can be implemented on top of them. In fact there are tons of samples, articles and tutorials that explain how various well-known EAI patterns can be implemented using these 'ESB implementations'.
One thing that I've learnt from writing code to Synapse is that it has a very flexible enterprise messaging model. Support for any wire level protocol or any message format can be easily implemented on top of this model and can be deployed as a separate pluggable module. During the last few years, I myself have contributed to the implementation of following adapters/connectors on various occasions:
  • FIX transport
  • SAP transport (IDoc and BAPI support)
  • MLLP transport and HL7 message formats
  • CSV and various other office document formats
  • Thrift connector
  • Numerous other custom binary protocols based on TCP/IP
This is just a bunch of stuff that I've had the privilege of implementing for Synapse/WSO2 ESB. I know for a fact that other committers of Synapse and WSO2 ESB have been working on supporting dozens of other protocols, message formats and mediators. Thanks to all this hard work Synapse and WSO2 ESB are currently two of the most powerful and feature-complete ESB implementations anyone will ever come across. Also the existence of connectors for so many protocols and applications is a testament to the agility and flexibility that Synapse and WSO2 ESB can bring in as ESB products.
Another aspect of Synapse/WSO2 ESB that has been questioned many times is their ability to support RESTful integrations (Paul also addresses this issue in his post). This confusion stems from the fact that Synapse uses SOAP as its intermediary message format. Without going into too many technical details, I'd just like to point out that one of the largest online marketplace and auctioning providers in the world uses Synapse/WSO2 ESB to process several hundred millions of REST calls in a daily basis. The new API support we have implemented in Synapse makes it absolutely simple to design, implement and expose RESTful APIs on Synapse/WSO2 ESB. In fact I recently published an article which demonstrates through practical examples how powerful RESTful applications can be implemented using Synapse/WSO2 ESB while supporting advanced REST semantics such as HATEOAS. The recently released WSO2 API Manager product which supports exposing rich web APIs with support for API key management is also based on Synapse/WSO2 ESB.
I think I have made my point. Both Synapse and WSO2 ESB are two excellent ESB choices if you're looking to adopt SOA or enterprise integration within your organization. Their wide range of features is only second to the very high level of performance they offer in terms of high throughput and low resource utilization. Please also go through the post made by Paul, where he has explained some of the above issues with low level technical details. I particularly like his analogy concerning Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty :) 


Sandy Shaw said...

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Sandy Shaw said...

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