What Lies Ahead for SOA?


As enterprises move toward a service-oriented architecture (SOA) , a market for third-party service builders and brokers will emerge.

Buyers and sellers of services will need new technologies to ensure security and build trust between them. Meanwhile, vendors will bring out more mobile SOA applications to enrich the experience of handheld device users.

SOA is a software architecture built around business processes, which are offered as services that can be reused throughout an enterprise. Services can be combined to form new applications through mashups . The aim is to provide new services for a better and richer user experience.

Enterprises will adopt different approaches to application development. They will also focus more on the business, rather than the IT, aspect of applications.

The move to SOA will require that users be knowledgeable about business and IT, and university curricula will change to reflect this. Already, IBM is sponsoring such a curriculum change.

“There’s going to be companies out there that build processes and sell them either through a private or a public registry,” Rick Fitz, CA’s (NASDAQ: CA) vice president of product management for application performance management products, told InternetNews.com. In three to five years, enterprises will go outside the firewall and get services from outside providers instead of building them in-house, he added.

These externally provided services initially will be “small, confined and specific,” and these small, high-value services will take hold rapidly, Fitz said. Eventually, enterprises will be able to get entire business processes for rent or for subscription in software as a service, or SaaS form.

Enterprises will also provide business-to-business services. Fitz said Visa (NYSE: V), for example, has a service that lets business customers validate credit cards on its servers.

IBM is already offering what it calls an SOA business catalog, which consists of business and IT services and the best practices for various services.

The catalog has more than 8,000 items, about 70 percent of which come from outside IBM. Purchasers can select services by industry, process or the product they want the service to work with, Sandy Carter, IBM’s vice president of WebSphere and SOA marketing, told InternetNews.com.

Enterprises can mash up the services or combine different services, and individual owners govern each service. Some are open source, and others IBM certifies as able to perform various functions.

“This is going to be a whole new business model,” Carter said. Future developments will include the ability to do mashups on the front end and SOA on the back end, she added.

Companies, however, will have to resolve issues such as security and other issues before an industry of professional services builders takes off. “Enterprises will need some method to ensure trust with suppliers of services, and I think a lot of the necessary technologies for that haven’t been invented yet,” Fitz said.

“Security is always a worry, even with services within the enterprise,” Fitz added. “There must be some mechanisms to ensure quality of service inside the process.”

Ultimately, enterprises need to have their services identity-aware so they know who is trying to access them, for access control and compliance, Raj Nagaratnam, IBM’s engineer and chief architect for identity and SOA security, told InternetNews.com. They will also have to manage the identities of customers, consumers and partners to whom services are being exposed.

Enterprises will move security features, such as access control and authorization, outside applications and offer them as services, Nagaratnam said. This will make the applications more flexible, so enterprises will be able to change a policy without having to redeploy applications and services.

Next page: Mobile SOA capabilities

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Mobile SOA capabilities

The aim of SOA is to enable new services through mashups for a richer and better user experience, so it makes sense to extend SOA to mobile devices, for which rich applications are increasingly emerging. BEA, now part of Oracle, introduced new software to enable SOA on handheld devices.

More recently, Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) unveiled its recently announced Mobile Enterprise Platform. This will enable technology to “bring interesting content, secure and orchestrate and personalize and deliver it to the billions of handheld devices out there,” David Codelli, Sun’s segment marketing manager for communications, told InternetNews.com.

The company is experimenting with orchestrating mobile SOA services in new ways in its Project Destination. For example, a subscriber going on a business trip can go to Project Destination and interface with an orchestrated weather report, which will provide weather forecasts for all the cities visited on a trip, Codelli said.

The back end of the Project Destination service will also orchestrate conference calls with different people in these cities and log them into his schedule. When it’s time for a conference call, the service will automatically dial all attendees and set up the call.

The user can be automatically logged in to the communications device once he turns the handheld device on through single sign-on identity management for both applications and the communications network. Security technologies from Sun will prevent the device from being misused if it’s lost or stolen.

New application development approaches

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is investing in a modeling platform based heavily on its Oslo project to update its technologies for SOA, announced in October.

This will “let you take services you have built, assemble them in an end-to-end application using our tooling and graphical editors, then take the model you’ve defined and run the model,” Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in Microsoft’s connected system division, told InternetNews.com. The model is the application, so changing it will change the behavior of the application.

Enterprises will be able to run the model on-premise or in the cloud. Previews of the technology for the model will be released for community technology preview at the upcoming Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in October.

While Microsoft is focusing on the technology, other vendors and analysts contend that as more companies move to SOA, the focus on business issues will increase. “SOA is an approach, not a technology, and you need to learn skills in IT and business, and take a holistic look at what changes SOA will evoke within your entire system,” IBM’s Carter said.

Over the next five years, businesses will place more emphasis on ways of structuring business information than on technology, Gartner analyst Nick Gall told InternetNews.com. “Our clients are beginning to realize that what can make SOA truly transformative is getting the right information model for your service architecture,” he explained.

For example, they will work to get their business vocabularies, or semantics, in order. “What does the term ‘account balance’ mean to different departments? That’s a business issue, not a technology issue,” Gall said.

One result of the increased business focus that few realize will be the reuse of business processes in addition to IT processes. “The concept of a business service has emerged as opposed to the concept of a technical service,” Software AG deputy chief technology officer Miko Matsumura told InternetNews.com.

[cob:Special_Report]A business service is composed of finer-grained technologies, Matsumura said. With business service reusability, “you command a larger piece of structure at one time.”

As a consequence of the increased focus on business that will result from SOA, enterprises will require people with new sets of skills. IBM, which has more than 6,500 SOA deployments worldwide, believes people who have broad and deep business and technology skills and can communicate clearly with business and IT will be in increasing demand.

It has introduced a curriculum called service management in more than 2,000 universities worldwide to train people in these new capabilities. “We believe service science will be the new computer skill,” Carter explained.

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