by Galen Gruman

SOA’s Technology Underpinnings

May 01, 20063 mins

Although service-oriented architecture (SOA) is not about technology, technologies can help you deploy an SOA. While there are many good products available, the market is just beginning to mature, notes Ron Schmelzer, a ZapThink senior analyst. That’s why so much of the supporting systems for SOA efforts today rely on human effort, such as having a project review team that knows what services already exist and can be used for a proposed new project. Still, a few technologies are emerging now to help ease the SOA effort:

1. Enterprise service bus (ESB): A variation of an application server or EAI platform, an ESB orchestrates the communication among services, as well as with the user and any data sources. “SOA in today’s world is very message-centric,” says Sandra Rogers, program director for SOA, Web services and integration at IDC. Some large enterprises will have an appropriate messaging system in place, she says, but most will need to upgrade their systems to adopt current standards and move beyond simple data transfer and application integration.

2. Service registry or repository: This database system tracks the various service components available for reuse and publishes available services to business analysts and external partners so they know what’s available. For example, Sprint Business Services makes its registry available via the Web to encourage use of its services, notes Vijay Musuvathy, manager of solution architecture. Unlike a traditional database, a registry must also store the context of the service, which defines when and how it should be used, in the form of metadata.

3. Master data management systems and metadata repositories: These two categories of products help enterprises manage their data in the same distributed, composite way that they’ll manage business logic through SOA services. This ensures that data’s meaning is understood by all services that use it, so no hidden assumptions end up corrupting the results that services deliver when using or generating the data.

4. User interface management: In a few years, “the biggest development will be the whole user interface space,” says IDC’s Rogers. As more services exist in everything from Web portals to office tools, “everything will be a producer or consumer of a service,” and managing the user interface across everything will require a service-oriented approach as well, she says. The emergence of asynchronous Java and XML (Ajax) “is a start but it’s not enough” for SOA’s broad reach, Rogers says.