It hasn’t received much attention in SOA circles yet, but last week Bill Gates broke what might be the biggest news Microsoft has made in the SOA space since the debut of .NET.
At the TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla. he announced Oslo, Microsoft’s SOA modeling project, will incorporate UML. It was also revealed that Visual Studio 10 will feature UML support. At first blush that may not sound like a big deal. After all, it’s just Microsoft embracing a popular standard modeling language.
Yet Oslo is Microsoft’s Hail Mary pass over the rest of the SOA market and apparently the company has decided to end its religious differences with UML for the sake of giving Oslo mass appeal. Previously Microsoft had been pushing domain specific languages (DSLs) as an alternative to the general purpose format of UML. Unfortunately for the folks in Redmond, DSLs have failed to gain much traction. Part of the problem is getting the people who form a domain to agree upon a standard syntax. Another part is having that DSL interact with anything outside of its domain. Those things surely will come with the march of time, but the uptake has been painfully slow.
SOA demands some commonality, that everyone stop trying to be so special and idiosyncratic. Microsoft has always understood that on some levels, but it’s got skin in the proprietary software business (actually it’s got skin, blood, muscle, bone, you name it). Its maverick tendencies have often led to it offering users products that do SOA the Microsoft way. That is in stark contrasts to the company’s Web services tooling, which has for the most part embraced open standards and heterogeneous systems (most notably Windows Communication Foundation). This is where I remind some readers out there that, yes, there truly is a difference between SOA and Web services.
In fact, one way to look at Oslo, which supposedly will offer a Community Technical Preview in September, is that this is Microsoft’s flag in the ground for SOA. It emphasizes the importance of modeling, attempting to bring the technology as close as possible to the business. As such, UML represents an excellent choice. It should create interoperability between Oslo projects and those built with rival modeling tools (e.g. IBM Rational). And Eclipse’s Modeling Development Tools Project will have a UML2 component ready by the end of the month.
UML gives Oslo a reach it never would have had if it were based on a proprietary modeling language. The UML foundation means Oslo stands a chance of being truly universal, which is as SOA a concept as you can get. It also puts pressure on the vendors backing Service Component Architecture. Has Microsoft managed to leapfrog them in terms of offering a general purpose SOA modeling platform? Or perhaps could this lead to Microsoft embracing SCA at some level, perhaps via Apache Tuscany?
With this UML announcement, Oslo suddenly ranks as a potentially powerful new addition to the SOA space. Nice to see that Bill Gates can still shake things up, even as he prepares to step down as full-time chairman of Microsoft.
Can a free open source Ajax toolkit handle enterprise applications?
That’s the question Nexaweb Technologies Inc. is hoping to answer in the affirmative with today’s announcement that it is contributing new software to the Dojo Foundation to provide the structured approach favored for enterprise Ajax development.
The software, dubbed ‘dojo.E,’ will allow developers to create enterprise Ajax, said Jeremy Chone, CTO at Nexaweb Technologies Inc., who adds that Dojo is one of the industry’s most advanced sets of open source Ajax tools.
In his view Dojo will be ready for prime time with the structure dojo.E provides and visual tooling, which he said would be the next step.
“What we’re doing is we’ve enhanced Dojo with a structural language, which is XML,” Chone explained.
Asked how this will make Dojo better suited for business applications, he said: “The business benefits of dojo.E on top of Dojo is three things. One is the code is more structured. Two, you have reusability so you can reuse the components. Three, you can have visual tooling because now that it is structured and well defined you can have visual tools to organize your Ajax.”
Tom Rhinelander, analyst, New Rowley Group, agreed that Nexaweb’s contribution to Dojo will offer developers a choice they don’t usually have in selecting open source tools for Ajax.
“Developers have often had to choose between free Ajax toolkits that delivered interactivity but didn’t make it easy to maintain the code base, and commercial or commercially-sponsored rich Internet application (RIA) toolkits that weren’t as widely accepted but made it much easier to program and maintain code,” the analyst said. “Nexaweb’s dojo.E offers developers a more structured way to develop and maintain their interactive Web apps, using an XML markup language while also leveraging the popular Dojo toolkit.”
More information on dojo.E is available at a new Website for the tools.
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.