Iona adds components to Artix SOA suite

Iona Technologies hopes to strengthen its position in the middleware market with a new version of its Artix SOA Infrastructure Suite released Monday, which includes several updates and two components.

Big vendors including IBM, BEA Systems and SAP have been expanding their suites of SOA (services-oriented architecture) products, making it harder for smaller vendors like Iona to compete. Iona's strategy is to emphasize its independence and provide tools that customers can use to bridge environments based on the big vendors' products, such as IBM's WebSphere and BEA's WebLogic.

"They're not going to compete in terms of breadth of products or services, but where they do play well is in heterogeneous environments, because of their great adherence to standards," said Brad Shimmin, principal analyst for applications infrastructure software with Current Analysis Inc.

Iona's software is also known for good performance, which includes being able to parse a high volume of messages between applications quickly, and has carved out a niche in vertical industries such as telecommunications and finance, Shimmin said.

Iona hopes to defend its niche further with Artix 5, an update to its software tools for SOA development that can be bought in separate components or as a suite.

It includes a new component called Artix Data Services, which transforms messages into the correct data format automatically as they pass between applications, said Sean Baker, Iona co-founder and chief corporate scientist. Two financial applications might be using different versions of the SWIFT banking standard, for example, and Data Services will transform the data as it's exchanged. Data Services is based on technology from Iona's acquisition of C24 earlier this year.

The other new component in the suite is Artix Registry/Repository, a "catalog" listing the software services available to a company's developers, including information about who can use the services and how they should be deployed. The software was announced in April and is now available as part of the suite for the first time.

Iona also updated the three existing Artix components. A new version of Artix ESB (enterprise service bus) adds support for JAX-WS 2.0 and WSDLGen, which should help boost developer productivity, Baker said. Artix Orchestration adds support for version 2.0 of BPEL (Business Process Execution Language); and Artix Mainframe has several performance improvements.

The company has also finished rewriting the core of the Artix suite in Java, which will be offered alongside the existing C++ version, Baker said. The job took 15 months and will mean better performance for developers writing to Artix in Java, he said.

Some of the updates to Artix 5 are required to keep pace with competitors, like the support for BPEL 2.0, but others, like the Data Services component, are quite forward looking, Shimmin said. Even the BPEL update is well done, he said, because Artix 5 will migrate BPEL4WS 1.1 processes automatically to BPEL 2.0.

The performance increases are necessary to keep pace with rivals such as pure-play ESB vendor Cape Clear, which also emphasizes performance, he said.

Artix 5 is available now. Pricing for the ESB and Orchestration components start at $10,000 per CPU, Artix Data Services starts at $7,500 per CPU and the Registry/Repository begins at $45,000 for a starter kit supporting up to 10 services.