SOA Talk

April 27, 2009  6:20 PM

Watching the Feds pick a CTO and CIO

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Over the years, the Federal government has had considerable influence in seeking to define the role of Enterprise Architect. As a new administration gets rolling in Washington, there is some chance that its approach to hiring a new chief federal CIO and CTO will affect future trends in EA. The CIO and CTO positions have been filled with Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra, respectively. Seers of the tea leaves of technology have pondered those choices, and hit the blogs running. Continued »

April 23, 2009  5:51 PM

Reza Rahman on Oracle-Sun

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

A recent piece ran on the mega merger of Oracle and Sun heard from a number of users who saw a better competitive situation with Sun in the Oracle camp, as opposed to being the IBM camp. The takes are not all positive, however.

“I am not terribly happy with it,” said Reza Rahman, Independent Consultant and EJB specialist. “I would rather have seen a Sun-HP merger.”

“Sun merging with Oracle really cuts down the competitiveness in the application server market specifically and the software development market generally,” he said.

Some of Rahman’s concerns revolve around Glassfish, a Java server implementation that Sun appeared finally ready to run with.

“This basically takes Glassfish off the table. I expect it will basically be assimilated into the Oracle portfolio,” Rahman told me.

Still, Rahman concedes, Sun was in trouble, and, in turn, Java was in trouble.

He said: “This is preferable to the present situation where we have a weak Sun. It is just not a good situation as far as competiveness and innovation in the Java space goes.” It was not good to rely on a company with weak resources to lead the efforts for Java-based standards.

April 22, 2009  8:14 PM

OSGi angle on Snorkle (Sun-Oracle) deal

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Communicated recently with Eric Newcomer about Oracle and Sun, which is big news this week. Parts of our e-mail conversation are included in the story entitled “Java side of Sun seen strengthened by Oracle buy.”

There are a lot of questions yet to be resolved in this ongoing story – What will happen to Java? Where for art thou, MySQL? Will Oracle become a hardware company? Whither Netbeans? And so on.

Eric Newcomer, in his role of OSGi champion, has an additional question: How will this merger affect OSGi? We have featured OSGi more than a bit on both this blog and on the site, and therefore are glad to share some of Eric’s thoughts on OSGi in the light of the proposed mega merger here. He suggests he may clear up some murkiness on the Sun side that previously seemed to be out and about.

He writes:

“Oracle has been a strong supporter of OSGi. They are well represented on the enterprise expert group that I co-chair, and one concrete action I expect is that they will move to eliminate Sun’s formerly schizophrenic attitude toward OSGi for Java modularity.

Sun had supported OSGi through its adoption in GlassFish, but had also competed with it in Project Jigsaw and to some extend in the JSR 294 work as well.  Among other things this created uncertainty over the role of OSGi in Java’s future, especially for enterprise applications.  Given Oracle’s strong participation in the OSGi enterprise effort to date I expect this acquisition will have a positive impact on the OSGi enterprise initiative.”

April 21, 2009  3:33 PM

The quest for granular SOA services

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

I learned from a writing teacher who was not a writer at all – he was an engineer. He took an engineer’s approach to writing – or maybe I should say a reverse-engineering approach. That is: He looked at the best examples of the type of writing he was pursuing, analyzed them, and codified their practice. For example, in his class, you weren’t supposed to use forms of the verb phrase ‘to be’. Well, you could, but a point would be deducted each time you did. Oh, how the students moaned. And in turn, he would intone, “When you leave this class, you no longer need employ this method.”
He came to his method through the study of failure – his own failure to succeed at writing. As a youth and into college, he’d dutifully hand-in his English compositions and the teacher would scribble “Awk” – for awkward – all over the paper. “They’d tell me what I did was wrong,” he told us, “but they’d never show me how to fix it.” As a result, when he became a teacher of technical writing, he provided clear and fairly strict rules of writing.
All of which brings us to the issues of the day: What are truly services? How granular must they be? And how precisely granular should they appear? This is essential to success with SOA, but the literature merely says “Write properly composed services” without providing any guidance on how to do this.

In a guest column on, Douglas Barry has given a bit of such guidance for those who would create services. Give it a read and comment.

Related SOA development information
Using atomicity to gain SOA granularity –

April 20, 2009  3:56 PM

Oracle buys Sun for $7.4B

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Database software giant Oracle has reached a definitive merger agreement to purchase Solaris OS and Java originator Sun Microsystems for about $7.4 billion. The move follows reports of a breakdown in merger discussions between Sun and IBM that would have set the price of Sun at $6.5 billion.

If completed, the transaction would vault Oracle into the computer market, one that it has patently avoided during its history. It also would enhance the company’s position in Java software, a field in which it gained additional prominence with its 2008 purchase of Java application server maker BEA Systems.

The deal would also place the commercial version of the open-source MySQL database under Oracle’s control. Sun bought MySQL originator MySQL AB in Janurary 2008.

The deal was approved by Sun’s board of directors. In a statement, Sun said it expected the deal to close this summer, subject to Sun stockholder approval, regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

April 6, 2009  3:49 PM

IBM-Sun talks on rocks? “Sun being Sun?”

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

It is opening day for baseball in the U.S. and blogger Dana Blakenhorn finds a suitable metaphor to describe the latest reported dealings of Sun and IBM. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported the two computer companies were near an agreement on a merger.

The rumor now is that a faction in Sun (one led by former CEO Scott McNealy) is pushing for more money from Big Blue. Further rumors have IBM reducing its offer. This all puts the proposed deal in something less than limbo.

Blogger Blakenhorn likens the situation to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ off-season negotiations with Manny Ramierez – a talented hitter of the baseball whose self-esteem seems to know no upper boundaries.

Over the winter, Ramierez walked away from a lucrative deal with the Dodgers, only to find there was not a wider market for his skills.

Eventually, Ramierez signed with the Dodgers for a deal somewhat less rich.

Blakenhorn suggests a similar outcome may yet transpire in the negotiations of IBM and Sun.

Related computer industry news
IBM and Sun reportedly in merger talks –, Mar. 18, 2009
If McNealy thinks he is Manny Ramirez, has another think coming – ZDNet Linux and Open Source blog

April 3, 2009  8:22 PM

SOA service managers wanted

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Ovum analyst Tony Baer reaffirms the link between SOA and IT Service Management in a blog post – entitled ”What’s a Service? Who’s Responsible?”

He talks briefly about the role ITIL can play, and in more detail about an emerging notion that a ”Service Manager” role may have a place in the modern orgainization. He considers the notion of who today is responsible for ensuring services meet business needs and that infrastrucutre is adquate to support those services.

Baer asks if what is needed is ”a sort of uber role that ensures that the service
(1) responds to a bona fide business need
(2) is consistent with enterprise architectural standards and does not needlessly duplicate what is already in place, and
(3) won’t break IT infrastructure or physical delivery.

This is a thoughtful piece. Clearly, the sobriquet ”Service Manager” may need some tuning, as the title seems equally apt for an individual charged with scheduling oil changes or refrigerator repairs.

Related ITILness
”What’s a Service? Who’s Responsible?” – OnStrategies blog

March 24, 2009  3:47 PM

Survey sees SOA strength

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

The recent tremendous upheaval in the world economy did not bring out the best in the large army of SOA pundits. The upheaval was going to be “the end of SOA” or SOA was going to be “the answer” to the upheaval. The comments did not run the spectrum – the comments ended up on one end of the teeter-totter or other.  Some SOA pundits have been on auto-pilot so long, the auto-pilot is now the pilot. Where is SOA, really? We felt asking the audiences at TechTarget Application Development Group member sites and would shed a brighter light on the somewhat murky topic. Continued »

March 18, 2009  1:25 PM

Putting Java to REST

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Web services followed on the first flush of Java in the late 1990s. They might have been called something else. ‘Services’ made a certain sense because the term ably conveyed a difference from then-reigning object technology. People were ready for the services part. People understood that a waiter did not need to grow or make the coffee – or carry a coffee canister on their back, for that matter – in order to ‘serve’ coffee to you.

The ‘Web’ part of Web services was different, somewhat exploitative. The Web was a popular success, and you have to imagine someone thinking that if they named the latest software architecture after the Web, good things might happen. It wasn’t a big reach; Web services did tend to use the Web’s bread-and-butter protocol, HTTP.

That brings us to REST, which some people feel is truer to the spirit of the web than classic Web services employing XML and SOAP albeit over http.

The value of REST architecture is that it takes better advantage of Web architecture, indicated Bill Burke, RedHat Fellow, former Chief Architect for JBoss, certainly one of the most startling successful open-source Java implementations of all time. Burke is now Contributor to JBoss and a Project Lead on the JBoss RESTEasy Project.

“The crux of it is rediscovering http – trying to understand how the web becomes so prevalent,” he said. “SOAP only uses a bit of the http protocol. It really uses http only as a transport mechanism, like a socket.” We talked to Burke on the eve of TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas. At the event, Burke will lead a session entitled ”Putting Java to REST: The New Java + RESTful Web Services Specification.” [This event is presented by, SearchSOA’s sister publication.]

Burke maintains that the whole slate of standards known as “WS-*” [“WS-‘Star’”] have become too much of a moving target. “Getting vendors to cooperate is hard – ask Apache,” he chides.

Still, http has forged on. Now every platform supports http, so you don’t need infrastructure at both ends of the pipe.

REST forgoes certain levels of interoperability, but that may have its advantages.

Burke says: “What is cool about REST is you are focused on straight http. So instead of worrying about interoperability between vendors…you worry about interoperability between applications. You let http do the heavy lifting.”

Being the SOA guy I have to ask questions like ”Is REST anti-SOA?” Not at all, says Burke, although he is ready to say REST is anti-WS-Star … and SOAP.

March 5, 2009  6:01 PM

Where SOA ends

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

By Ted Neward
In the rush to embrace new technologies and demonstrate “cutting-edge awareness”, companies (and individuals) sometimes create mountains out of molehills. Such was the case with XML a few years ago, relational databases before that, object- orientation, Java, graphical user interfaces…. in fact, it’s hard to name a recent technology trend that hasn’t spawned this kind of “rush to embrace” that leads to nonsensical claims, bizarre architectural suggestions, or blatant bald-faced attempts at capturing clueless consumer dollars.

One of those more recent trends has been the SOA bandwagon. Originally, though it’s hard to remember in the frenzy around SOA, the whole point of services, at least in their original form, was about designing distributed systems to be loosely-coupled and thus easier to interoperate with. Consider these original classic “four tenets of service-orientation” (

1) Boundaries are explicit
2) Services are autonomous
3) Services share schema and contract, not class
4) Service compatibility is determined based on policy

Nowhere in here do we find reference to SOA governance, SOA enablement, or any of the other elements that have been attached to the SOA name. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where CTOs and CEOs are talking about SOA as a general strategy for running their entire IT department.

I always thought CTOs and CEOs had something… I don’t know… *better* to do. For some reason, I always thought it was the job of the architect to think about these things, rather than let the CTO or CEO sit around and think about how their various software systems should be designed.

Don’t get me wrong: any organization that spends time thinking about how their various software systems are going to interact with one another is already a huge step above those that don’t. Too many CEOs and CTOs just assume that their back-end IT systems are capable of talking to anything at any time–in fact, one CTO once told me, to my face, “The only reason you’re saying it’s hard is so that you can charge me more money as a consultant. Well, I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying you.”

Said CTO went on to buy a “service-oriented” software package that he claimed would solve all their integration problems. The company went under about a year later. I won’t suggest it was anything to do with my inability to convince him that he really needed to invest more in thinking about his software infrastructure instead of just buying something “service-oriented”, but I can’t help but wonder….

So what are we to make of all the “service-oriented” bells and whistles currently being hung on every product, language, or release? In the end, the same thing we eventually made of objects, XML, Java, relational databases, XML, and every other technology that’s been put in front of us.

It’s useful, but it has an “end”. There is a point in the IT implementation, where the technology simply can’t help. Consider object-orientation, for example: back in the heyday of objects, various vendors, including one three-lettered vendor who was seriously looking to displace their rival in the operating system market, slapped “object-oriented” around everything, with the full expectation that not only customers *think* the product was better, but that the product really *would* be better. Another company, headed by a would-be jazz musician, tried the same thing for its office suite, and almost jazzed itself out of existence.

Moral of the story? We learned that objects are a useful way of structuring the way programmers think. Nothing more.

Another look at the “four tenets” makes it pretty clear that services aren’t much more than that, either–it’s a way of structuring the way programmers think, and has nothing to do with “governance” or “enablement”. Service-orientation describes an approach by which we create distributed systems, and that’s all.

When a CTO starts thinking about objects, or services, or other low-level activities, she may as well be conducting code reviews, too.

CTO-driven refactoring, anybody?

Ted Neward – blogger, teacher and speaker- is principal consultant, ThoughtWorks.

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