What’s an ESB Between Neighbors?

In a deal announced early this morning, Progress has made an offer to buy Iona, another middleware company located just a few exists up Boston’s Route 128. At first blush, the deal sounds awfully redundant: Progress invented the ESB, and Iona’s growth business was supposed to be an ESB. My colleagues Dana Gardner and Joe McKendrick have already weighed in on the deal.

In fact, Iona CTO Eric Newcomer stated the case quite succinctly in his blog. “It’s a bit like two former rivals of the basketball l court, each with different strengths and skills, finally getting put on the same team.” More to the point, Newcomer described how, at a SOA forum several years ago where both companies presented. “For the first couple of hours we took turns saying exactly the same things about SOA, application architecture, and the unnecessary complexity of Java EE application servers. Then we each took a turn describing how our respective products met the same requirements, and served exactly the same segment of the industry (i.e. SOA infrastructure) with different approaches.”

There are some differences, notably that Artix has some mainframe and Microsoft connectivity that could complement Progress’s Sonic ESB. But the more important place to keep your eye focused is on the open source FUSE side of Iona’s (soon to be Progress’s) business, as it makes a play for lighter weight containers that Sonic doesn’t focus on. It could also make a good match for Progress’s legacy OpenEdge customer base, which consists of SMBs who like things simple.