There are some anecdotal claims out there in cyberspace that some companies are struggling with SOA. Mind you, we never really hear who these companies are or much about the details of what kind of trouble they’ve had.
That makes it hard to assess what the problem is. Are these users actually pursuing service orientation or are they buying products with an SOA label and expecting them to work miracles? I suspect the latter is a common trait of those who feel they haven’t gotten enough bang for their SOA buck.
Here’s one thing I can tell you: I’ve lost count of how many slide show presentations I’ve seen on SOA, but in every success story presentation I’ve ever seen there is an architecture slide. For instance, when I saw a presentation in April by State Street Corp. centered around how it’s using an ESB for the messaging involving the $15 trillion in assets in has under custody, the slide show did not proclaim ESBs are great and everyone should have one. Instead it delineated where the ESB fit inside State Street’s architecture, what role it served and how it played with other critical functionality in achieving the scalability, reliability and high performance that State Street desires.
If you can’t produce a representation of your architecture and then demonstrate that you’ve actually built systems in accordance with that architecture, then you can’t claim to be doing SOA. You may have undertaken a Web services project or bought some product that might be able to help you with an SOA if you had one, but there is no getting around the primacy an architectural blueprint. Those who lack it are begging for trouble.
Interestingly, in our user survey last fall, readers reported that the top SOA development challenge they are facing is a lack of internal skills or training (30.5%). Nothing else even came close. It’s no secret that the supply of architects who actually understand SOA is lagging behind the demand. Yet the discipline involved with service orientation is far from obscure.
Recently we ran two articles from Thomas Erl about the difference between service orientation and object orientation (second part here). We also recently published some architect best practices. And if you need an example of what can be achieved by adopting a service orientation perspective and paying attention to your architecture, look no farther than this case study from ING Card. ING adopted exactly no new technology when it first waded into the SOA waters and was able to streamline its international credit card business. They were able to do this because they had an architecture at the core of the business plan.
Analysts often wear themselves out reminding users that SOA isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do. Well, architecture is the something you do.
Our sister site, TheServerSide.com, has an interesting post on a kerfuffle between Microsoft and some Hungarian students who are angered that the company has bought the nation’s technology curriculum.
The TSS.com audience takes the whole matter down an educational rabbit hole, but let’s try to keep focused on the technology issue here: Microsoft apparently thinks it can unring a bell. The notion that there is one technology to control them all is dead. Steve Ballmer can funnel all the cash he wants into the Hungarian educational system, but students are still going to get exposed to a bevy of technology outside of the Microsoft platform.
There’s simply too much information available to think that what amounts to a technology abstinence program has any chance of succeeding. The kids will pick up Java in the streets. They’ll program with Ruby on Rails when you’re not looking.
This is the chief reason why I dig SOA. It aims to tackle the big questions. What are the big questions you might ask? Well, you’ve now got a network that extends around the globe and a massive selection of technology at your disposal. That selection will only grow, as will the number of nodes on the network. They will in fact grow at alarming rates. So how do you use all of that in some sort of cohesive fashion? How do you find order in that chaos? How do you prepare for everything and anything? Service-orientation comes equipped with a set of principles to help address those questions.
I’ll quote Burton Group’s Anne Thomas Manes from an article we ran last year:
The technology really is irrelevant. The technology you use today is going to go away at some point. It’s about how you use technology, not what technology you use.
If you don’t get that, then you’re not ready for 21st century IT. No one is immune from it, not even Microsoft … and the national borders of Hungary will provide no defense from it. We have hit the point where there is so much technology that no single technology can afford the conceit that it will exist by itself. In fact, those technologies that seek to cloister themselves will quickly become irrelevant.
I suspect that reality will undermine Microsoft’s investment in Hungarian mindshare, turning the story from one of unseemly corporate influence to one of angry shareholders demanding to know why anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place. In fact, I imagine that after Microsoft spends beaucoup Euro on teaching young Hungarians all sorts of non-Microsoft technologies, the PR spin will be that this is an example of what a good corporate citizen it is and that it’s hoping to reap the dividends of good karma.
There’s plenty of money to be made as a player in the development market, but the quaint notion that you can curb the supply or demand for development technology stands to kick a vendor right in the balance sheet.
We at SearchSOA.com have a number of SOA user stories in the works at the moment and it strikes me that we could just about churn out a case study a day at this point in time. Last month at the IBM Impact conference, I blogged that seemingly every type of business imaginable has been embracing service orientation.
We’re encountering more big SOA projects than ever before and you’ve got to wonder what the working rationale is these days for an app dev project that isn’t loosely coupled and conformant with an enterprise architecture. What’s the counter argument? Obviously it can be less expensive in the short term and less complex to throw applications together in piecemeal fashion, but over time that approach becomes costly. It’s also a mess from an engineering standpoint.
Here are some of the most recent examples:
- Cars.com turned to SOA to help it with rapid growth
- Deutsche Post used service orientation to blend Java and .NET apps in a CRM system
- Con-way plans on building mobile apps for its transportation fleet based on the composite development its pursued over the past decade
- Business process orchestration has become a key for online real estate company Move Inc.
- SOA taught the Delaware Electric Cooperative the importance of BPM
- Insurance industry information provider MIB Inc. rebuilt its entire business around SOA
You can find links to 18 other SOA case studies in our top stories of 2007 compilation. The number of users who can document proven success with SOA is exploding. Does it deliver as advertised in every situation? No, nothing does and that’s why we go out and try to find the users with best practices to share. This is a complex field, but the ranks of users who’ve found the benefits that justify tackling the complexity are growing almost daily.
Here’s a question for those who don’t count SOA as a core competency in their app dev shop: why?
SOA Software Inc. says its acquisition of LogicLibrary Inc., announced today, creates “a dominant Integrated SOA governance automation company.”
The two companies were both rated as leaders in respective governance areas by two major analyst firms, said Roberto Medrano, SOA Software’s executive vice president, in making the argument that the new whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.
Pointing to a Gartner Inc. magic quadrant for “Integrated SOA Governance Technology Sets” published at the end of 2007, he said, “Why do we say we’re leaders? It’s not because we say it. Gartner says SOA Software is a leader in SOA governance. LogicLibrary is there as a visionary. The combination of SOA Software as a leader and LogicLibrary as a visionary certainly puts us up there.”
Medrano then points to a Forrest Research Inc. wave chart for “SOA Service Life-Cycle Management,” published in the first quarter 2008, which shows LogicLibrary and SOA Software in the running for leadership roles in a graphical scrum with IBM, Hewlett Packard Corp., and Software AG. BEA Systems Inc., now being acquired by Oracle Corp., rises above the rest in the Forrester view.
The acquisition of LogicLibrary by SOA Software follows a trend among governance vendors that is likely to continue, writes Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions LLC., in his blog today about the deal.
“The merger underscores not only the SOA vendor consolidation trend (ongoing), but also highlights the market driver of more end-to-end governance and management aspects of SOA deployments,” Gardner writes. “HP and TIBCO also had recent announcements that point up a wide and more automated approach to SOA governance/management.”
“What’s more,” Gardner added, “I expect to see more of this ‘total management’ approach to SOA coming from the open source SOA infrastructure providers, too.”
The strength of the SOA Software/Logic Library combination, Medrano argues is that while the two companies are highly rated on the same analysts’ charts, their technologies are complementary, adding to the greater whole with little overlap.
“There is no real competition between us and LogicLibrary in terms of the assets and products that we have,” the SOA executive said. Concluding that with their product lines merged: “We become one of the few if not the only one that provides the entire SOA governance for all the enterprise assets.”
Alan Himler, who until today was CEO and chairman of LogicLibrary and is now senior vice president, product management for SOA Software, said the combined governance technologies cover more than Web services.
“The beauty of it is that it covers not just services but other types of assets,” he said. “We can offer a solution from the distributed level up to the mainframe.”
The executives of the two companies points to the individual technologies they offered:
SOA Software technology included:
- policy lifecycle governance
- SOA registry, service lifecycle, compliance policy
- operational governance
- service security, mediation, management, operational policy
- SOA asset lifecycle management
- SOA development governance and SOA repository
- IDE and SCM integration
Medrano pointed out specific areas where LogicLibrary products will strengthen SOA Software offerings. He said the LogicLibrary Logidex product complements its SOA Service Lifecycle Management position with added capabilities including:
- Compliance policy definition and validation
- Mainframe artifact discovery
- Management policy definition and integrated implementation and enforcement
- Depth of support for service definitions
- Enhanced standards support
- Richer RBAC model and IDM system integration
- Federated identity and trust mediation
SOA Software’s Workbench is strengthened with capabilities from LogicLibrary including:
While financial details of the acquisition involving privately held companies was not released, Medrano said it involved a stock transfer. He said Los Angeles-based SOA Software will maintain the LogicLibrary offices including the Pittsburg, PA headquarters, and the Rochester MN research lab. The majority of the staff will also be retained, he added.
Pro wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper immortalized the words “Just when they think they’ve got the answers, I change the questions.”
Now we at SearchSOA.com are asking you to do the same thing, sort of. It won’t involve wearing a kilt or smashing a coconut over anyone’s skull. We just want you to ask some good questions.
We’ve recently revamped our site experts roster and we’re looking to put them through their paces. The way it works is you ask a question and we send the question off to an expert to get you an answer. It’s a fairly illustrious list of folks:
- SOA standards and architecture – Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at Burton Group
- SOA governance and BPM – Sri Nagabhirava, founder and chief architect nLeague Services
- SOA infrastructure – Dana Gardner, principal analyst Interarbor Solutions
- RIA and enterprise mashups – Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst ZapThink
- SOA testing and QA – Rami Jaamour, product manager of SOA solutions at Parasoft
- Data services – Larry Fulton, senior analyst at Forrester Research
- SOA development – Chris Haddad, vice president and service director at Burton Group
They’re already producing some top flight insight, like data integration best practices, where grid intersects SOA and the difference between WSDL 1.1 and 2.0. Yet good answers like that depend on good questions from the user community. We sift through heaping piles of “What’s the difference between an application server and a Web server?” (a perfectly legitimate question, but we answered it back in 2003) in order to get some of the top minds in the SOA space the best questions the user base can generate.
The process for submitting a question is simple. Just go to the topic where your question fits and click on “Pose a Question.” That will take you to a question submission form. After that, it’s as simple as typing in your query. Keep us busy. We like it that way.
Java EE 6, now in the development stage, needs to embrace the service component architecture (SCA) specification, argues Sanjay Patil, standards architect at SAP AG.
The Java Community Process Web page for Java EE 6 indicates that SCA is being considered for the next version of the enterprise platform. So in a conversation at this week’s Java One with the SAP standards guru, SearchSOA editors asked Patil if consideration should move to implementation.
Should SCA be part of Java EE 6?
“I certainly think it should,” Patil answered. “The main reason is SCA is really about assembling applications in a technology neutral way. If it was about a specific platform, such as Java EE, you could say there are enough APIs and libraries for Java applications. But if you look at the key value of SCA it’s about recognizing the fact that customers have different technologies, Java EE, BPEL, BPM systems, traditional EAI systems. They have a variety of communications mechanisms including Web services, JMS, and EDI.”
Facilitating SOA development in these heterogeneous environments was the driver behind the creation of the SCA specification by a vendor group that included SAP, IBM, Oracle Corp., and BEA Systems Inc. SCA is now making its way through the standards process at OASIS.
While there was a dearth of official talk about enterprise Java in the Java One keynote, Patil said the Java Enterprise Edition will be a major player in service component development.
“One of the main component technologies is going to be Java EE,” he said. “Our NetWeaver product is based on Java EE 5. So in our view it is important that Java EE support this high-level composition standard, SCA.”
In front of a packed room of a few hundred developers at the 2008 JavaOne conference yesterday, IBM’s Jean-Sebastien Delfino gave a presentation of the Apache Tuscany project, an open source implementation of the Service Component Architecture (SCA) standard. SCA is designed to facilitate a standard method of constructing, assembling and developing composite services and the Tuscany implementation (currently in version 1.2) looks to be ridiculously easy to use.
One of the mantras in the SOA space is that it’s hard to do. Sure enough, enterprise architecture and end-to-end governance come with a high degree of difficulty, but Tuscany seemingly has made it a snap to stitch together a composite, Web-based service. According to Delfino, the idea is to abstract away the plumbing details using HTML-style annotations and map out the business logic of the service.
Version 1.2 of Tuscany (which also leverages the Service Data Objects specification) has added distributed SCA domain management, an Eclipse plug-in, Atom binding through Apache Abdera project, improved JMS binding and an OSGi runtime. Delfino used Tuscany for a demo of a fruit store which starts with an online catalog and shopping cart. For those functions he used carrot tags to name the components and declare their implementations, properties and bindings. The transport protocols could be switched just by changing a tag, Delfino chose Atompub and JSON-RPC. He noted that he was running the service a Java SE environment, saying “It doesn’t have to run in a big app server. … Basically you have an Ajax app designed as a set of SCA components.” He added the whole process takes about 15 minutes.
Then he showed how to add a new component class (vegetables in this case) and a database, the latter of which involved another Atompub feed. After that he added a third-party supplier to the service by inserting a single SOAP binding line. “You can point to a WSDL if you want or specify policies,” he said.
Finally he showed off some widget functionality Tuscany has added to the SCA process, allowing the service to communicate with HTML.
Of the widget he said, “This is still an SCA component. It still talks to the catalog. You don’t need to change the model to speak to the client side.”
It should be interesting to see what the adoption rate for Tuscany is during the rest of the calendar year, particularly in terms of who uses it, because it comes across as being a fairly simple service creation tool. Basically, if you can handle some basic HTML coding, it would seem you’ve got the savvy to use Tuscany.
If serverside developers and enterprise architects were left feeling forgotten by last year’s JavaOne conference, then they’ll be feeling positively orphaned by this year’s major keynote address.
Sun Microsystems executive vice president for software Rich Green hammered away on how Java provides “a high performance virtual machine” capable of running all your digital life applications. Amazon demonstrated a handheld media devices for downloading and reading books, magazines and newspapers. Sony Ericsson showed off showed off an upcoming unified media device (think iPhone). Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Neil Young stopped by to talk about why he loves Blu-ray technology.
Green did mention that these New Age applications rely upon a foundation of services that can be mashed up, but that was about as close as the session go to enterprise development. Even the GlassFish news revolved around how the OSGi-enabled modularity of v3 will allow GlassFish to become a multimedia app server not solely associated with the server.
Sun president and CEO Jonathan Schwartz claimed his company is “focusing on users.” He threw in enterprises at the end of his list of who those users might be, but it gave the distinct impression that enterprises are becoming a bit of an afterthought with the Java braintrust.
“There’s clearly a battle developing for what will be that next great developer platform,” Schwartz said.
With whom he didn’t say. He also didn’t explain how enterprises will leverage that platform other than RIA development for clients. Sun seems to have a clear picture for where it wants to be in consumer-based digital life in the future. Whether it has a growing vision for how to help enterprises with development problems they have today remains a mystery.
I’m heading out to the JavaOne conference this week and it struck me that Java has had a very quiet year. Two years ago Sun launched Java EE 5 and almost immediately analysts began to call it a heavyweight dinosaur not likely to survive in an SOA world. Sun and others insisted Java would become more modular in the future, but last year Sun concentrated mostly on client development during JavaOne and it’s most momentous move during that past 12 months was to acquire MySQL, which doesn’t exactly point to any new directions for Java.
So what tea leaves can we read? I asked Brad Shimmin over at Current Analysis his thoughts and he said:
My impression with Java’s momentum is that it has reached a point where the platform needs to remain “consistent” top to bottom while affording specialization — much as Spring specialized as an alternative to EJB. I think Java EE 6 heads in this direction greatly with a highly modular approach that lets ISVs certify against particular aspects of the standard. That’s a good thing. Look at GlassFish for a vision of where this whole modularity thing is heading with its use of OSGi.
Well, sure enough, GlassFish v3 has OSGi support and a bunch of cool little subprojects like RESTful Web services, XML pipeline processing and an Ajax UI. Might we see the relationship between OSGi (and probably the Eclipse Foundation) and Java deepen? Now that would be revolutionary. The JCP page on Java EE 6 also mentions that Service Component Architecture could be part of the Java enterprise platform in the future.
Yet it makes you wonder if Java EE 6 has as much to offer the world as GlassFish v4 … or v5 even. Back in 2005, Sun had two hot new kids on the technology block – GlassFish and JBI. While JBI hasn’t gone much of anywhere, Sun continues to push and innovate with GlassFish. Why break a winning streak? What more can be done with the open source application server? Perhaps the biggest news this week won’t be what’s new for Java, but what’s coming up in GlassFish.
One of our sister sites, SearchNetworking.com, just published a story on how networking pros need to collaborate with people on the applications more often these days because service-oriented apps and Web 2.0 technologies put a greater and/or different strains on the network.
The article comes out of an Interop 2008 session and quotes Shankar Ramaswamy, vice president of product management at Sonoa Systems:
“Often, we start talking to customers in the application side of the house,” Ramaswamy said. “And we say: ‘Hey, we need the infrastructure guys to buy into this. Our customers are starting to recognize that this discussion has to happen outside of our technology. We are pushing it along because we are providing something that makes these people collaborate. We urge you to talk to your application people more.’ “
The piece goes on to quote others and talk about why networking pros and app dev pros need to be locked in the same room until they figure out how to work with one another. Mind you, this isn’t revelatory news. I remember writing essentially the same story after talking to users attending the 2002 NetWorld+Interop conference. John Gage declared “the network is the computer” more than 25 years ago. All SOA and Web 2.0 technologies are doing is taking the network up on the offer.
What baffles this observer of the IT industry is why we’re still having this discussion. The connection between an Internet-enabled network that can go anywhere and applications that try to combine disparate systems and data is so blatantly obvious that you’d need to disable all five of your senses to miss it. CIOs should have demanded app dev and networking get on the same page a decade ago. Instead the conversation seemingly revolves around domain pros wondering why folks in the other domain must afflict them so?
There’s no real big secret to that one. It’s because what you do and what they do are intimately tied together. SOA stands for service-oriented architecture, not service-oriented applications. A big part of that architecture is the nervous system that enables the loosely coupled, discoverable services to operate.
We spend a lot of bandwidth these days talking about technology and ROI (or the lack thereof). I’ll hazard a guess, absent any broad-based data to support it, that ROI is as much tied to getting disparate groups like app dev and networking to work with each other as it is to anything else. It gets to the simplistic beauty of Occam’s razor. Why can’t your IT department operate more efficiently? Because it doesn’t. If it did, then you’d likely see faster and bigger ROIs. Obviously levels of collaboration and dysfunction vary company to company, division to division, but far too many people aren’t having this conversation and you know who you are.
When all else fails, you might want to try working with the people with whom you work.