Service-Oriented Architecture: It’s Evolution, Baby

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Are you getting tired of the hype about service-oriented architecture (SOA)? From the media to vendor marketing campaigns, it seems like everyone’s talking about SOA as a revolution in IT thinking. But it’s really more evolution than revolution—a case of IT adapting itself to business needs to become more effective, efficient and meaningful to the business. Part of the problem is that SOA has gotten so much publicity so fast that there’s no really good, standard definition for it. If you peruse various blogs and articles, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any agreement on what SOA even means. Still, Gartner reports that in just three years, SOA will be the basis of more than three-quarters of development projects.

So what is SOA, anyway? Whatis.com defines SOA as—what else?—a collection of services. Let’s get a little more specific. BEA Systems, a leader in the SOA space, defines SOA as a methodology in which IT is aligned around the services an organization provides. Because each service is built on standards in this methodology, they can be created once and then used time and again. In other words, SOA is not a product—it’s more an idea of how things should work. It’s all about interoperability, which helps increase efficiency and drive down costs.

Most of the big vendors have gotten on the SOA bandwagon, either to offer services around SOA or to add some sort of SOA capability to their product line. IBM and Sun for example, offer the Business Integration Adoption Model and SOA Path, respectively, to help customers take advantage of SOA. The Business Integration Adoption Model is services built on WebSphere, Rational and Tivoli middleware consisting of SOA patterns, processes and tools to help businesses create business processes and services, runtime environments and management frameworks. SOA Path is more services-based, including a workshop, opportunity assessment, proof of concept and center of excellence.

A leader in this area is BEA Systems, which offers both services as well as the infrastructure needed to build, deploy and operate SOA. Its WebLogic Platform 8.1, which can be downloaded free of charge for development purposes, is the keystone. Add on tools like Liquid Data, Application Adapters, BEA WebLogic Workshop with Apache Beehive and more to take advantage of your existing services, as well as to build new services from scratch. BEA WebLogic Integration allows you to combine your lower-level services into something more complex. BEA also plans to announce additional products providing a set of capabilities in a service infrastructure, including a messaging backbone, data integration, security framework, integrated configuration management and meta-data UI framework. Look for BEA to lead the way with one of the first SOA-related certifications to hit the market.

Because interoperability is the key to SOA success, many vendors are combining their efforts to promote standards and bring solutions to market. SAP AG’s Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) is a blueprint for a business-driven approach to SOA, and it’s attracted a lot of big-name players, which are aligning their strategies with SAP’s. These include Adobe, Cisco, Computer Associates, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Symantec and VERITAS. They’re all going to license ESA to provide “enterprise services-ready” solutions to deliver on the promise of Web services by increasing flexibility and speed while lowering costs and risks.

In another industry partnership, Systinet has gotten support from leading vendors of Web services and SOA solutions for its Governance Interoperability Framework (GIF). The GIF’s goal is to simplify management, control and scalability while improving SOA information quality and visibility. Participants include Above All Software, a business integration software vendor; Actional Corp., which offers SOA Command and Control; AmberPoint, a provider of SOA management software; Composite Software and MetaMatrix, which are enterprise information integration companies; DataPower, which offers XML-aware products for network infrastructure; Hewlett-Packard, a leading voice in Web services; Layer 7 Technologies, which provides governance and security products and services, including an XML firewall; Reactivity, which offers SOA gateways to provide a secure XML infrastructure; and Service Integrity, whose SIFT software is a visibility platform that looks into data streams to collect business information. Participants in GIF will be able to publish services and associated policy, and be made aware of changes in the Business Services Registry (BSR), a system of reference.

Additional vendors to check out include Iona Technologies, whose Artix is an extensible enterprise service bus; Skyway Software, which launched a new SOA platform in April 2005; SOA Software, whose SOA Fabric product set includes Service Manager, Registry and XML VPN; and Sonic Software, which offers a recently enhanced ESB-based SOA infrastructure line.

Emily Hollis is managing editor for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at ehollis@certmag.com.

 

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