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Red Hat Acquires SOA Modeler

Web Services are not synonymous with SOA . At least that's the opinion of Thomas Erl, a leading service-oriented architecture (SOA) expert and author of several books on SOA.

Erl who is also the founder of SOA Systems, has gone to great lengths trying to educate about what SOA is and how to actually model solutions. He has designed a tool called the SOA Service Modeler that is being given to Red Hat to develop and open source.

"There is a real need to have some support for the specialized service-oriented analysis service modeling process that is required in a typical SOA delivery lifecycle to precede the physical design and development process that comes thereafter," Erl explained to internetnews.com. "This is a tool that is specifically designed to accommodate service modeling."

The tool has only been designed by Erl and is not yet built. Erl has given over the patent rights to the SOA Modeler in the hopes that it can spur SOA adoption and development. According to Erl, there were no financial considerations from Red Hat as part of the SOA modeler intellectual property donation.

"What the invention does is help us to give to our customers some key technology that, when implemented, should simplify the development and management of services," Mark Little, technical development manager for Red Hat's SOA platform, told internetnews.com. "This will go into open source so it'll have a fairly wide audience."

The SOA Modeler is intended to solve what both Red Hat and Erl see as a common flaw in the way that SOA is currently perceived. That is, Web Services is the same thing as SOA.

"In terms of obstacles that we see with SOA, the No. 1 issue is a lack of clarity about what SOA as an architectural model and service orientation as a design paradigm actually are," Erl said. "The key success factor to SOA is understanding service orientation. Lack of clarity is what I've seen inhibit most SOA projects."

The WSDL (Web Services Description Language) is a key element of Web Services that describes a particular service's capabilities. WSDL, though important for Web services, isn't a necessary part of SOA according to Erl.

He explained that this SOA Service Modeler has no direct connection to WSDL. But it does allow for the definition of the service contract regardless of whether you implement the service contract in a Web service with a WSDL or a Java component with its own technical interface.

"We're not Web-services specific, and we've been trying to put as much distance between developers and WSDL as possible, because although it may make sense for Web services, it doesn't make sense for services that are using JMS or other transports," Red Hat's Little said.

"People tie SOA to Web services, which is completely wrong. You can develop non-SOA applications with Web services just as easy as you can in any other distributed environment."

The goal of the SOA Modeler according to Little is to help fix the perception and make it easier for people to think about developing SOA without actually getting down into the implementation details.

Red Hat is expected to roll out its next JBoss SOA platform by the end of October.