I've been quite happy with the jp8000 controlling ableton. As far as controlling softsynths, there aren't any templates setup for all the parameters like a Novation Remote SL style controller. But all of the knobs and sliders do transmit midi, so you can assign the filter cutoff frequency and the resonance on the jp8k pretty easily to a software synth. Some software synths like BLUE (Rob Papen) have the ability to save controller setups. So if you configure the physical knob to the parameters/settings you tweak most often and save that config, it works pretty damn good. A good part of this depends upon the ability of the soft-synths you're using to save controller map setups. Even if they don't, it's really easy to do the mappings quickly in live.
I think with your Firepod, it should be pretty easy to get that tied in with Ableton with the audio and midi coming from your jp8k. I was getting kinda bored with my jp8000 since I've had it for nearly 10 years, but I did find that when I blended it with some soft synths (ImpOscar, Minimonsta, etc...) that it fits nicely in the mix within certain tracks. Also, there's a patch librarian available here: http://www.borgstation.com/default.php? ... ojp=1&ro=1
With a decent selection of alternate sounds if you're looking for some new starting places for synth patches. I'm not a sound designer myself, but I find that alternate sounds provide a good starting place that I can tweak and dial in further what I'm trying to sound like. I hope this helps..