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Thoughts from the Integration Consortium::
How to Take Advantage of SOA - Now

online columnist  Integration Consortium     Column published in DMReview.com
August 4, 2005
  By Integration Consortium

Build Composite Applications from Business Services

This month's column was written by Roger Sippl, founder and chairman of Above All Software.

In the http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleId=1027169 May 2005 Integration Consortium article, Shashank Tanksali stated that many IT organizations aren't moving toward a service-oriented architecture (SOA), partly because of confusion between the definition of Web services and SOA. He also pointed out that an uncoordinated standards process is not helping the situation.

But in spite of this confusion, almost everyone would agree about the value of SOA and its promise to:

  • Eliminate information silos,
  • Improve IT and business agility,
  • Achieve application integration more easily, and
  • Use existing technology investments more efficiently.

Many would also agree that building Web services is the logical approach for creating the services for an SOA. I'd like to point out though, that Web services are not the complete answer to achieving the SOA vision. First, there are the standards and definition issues pointed out by Tanksali. Second, Web services don't resolve several common integration challenges:

  • Difficulty in mapping business requirements and processes to underlying information systems,
  • Contending with redundant information and inconsistent definitions of business functions within various applications, and
  • Making the most efficient use of IT talent and resources.

Advances such as composite applications make the adoption of SOA easier.

The concept of building composite applications, first formalized by Gartner in 1998, is a reality today. More than just a step along the way, composite applications provide the business value that is the end goal of an SOA.

What are composite applications? They are not merely a new programming model, but are an architectural pattern for creating new SOA-based applications. They are transaction-based, comprising business functionality and information from one or more information resources. Composite applications handle the diverse requirements from different processes and different systems because their characteristics differ from traditionally integrated applications in several important ways.

Composite applications:

  • Interact with business logic components in real-time, instead of moving data move back and forth between enterprise applications.
  • Leverage Web services and the set of standards and technologies they comprise.
  • Are deployable across a wide variety of user-defined environments including rich, thin, mobile and portal clients.

Additionally, there are a growing set of best practices associated with developing and deploying composite applications including:

  • Creating reusable business services so they can be quickly assembled and reassembled to provide new functionality for different business scenarios.
  • Assembling - not coding - applications built from these business services to facilitate faster deployment.

What are these business services used to build composite applications? They are typically formed from one or more Web services and reflect the "good service" characteristics required by SOA:

  • Are defined in business terms and represent a business process or concept meaningful to both business analyst and technical audiences - therefore expressed in common business object and process terms (e.g., customers, back order item, etc.).
  • Can be assembled into more complex business services or composite applications.
  • Are defined and stored as meta data so they aren't affected by changes to underlying applications.
  • Leverage a wide variety of existing software services across an enterprise including:

o Web services
o Database stored procedures
o Application programming interface calls
o Microsoft Office COM operations
o ODBC database access

Here is a simple example comparing a Web service to a business service. Web services don't resolve the fact that the definition of an order in SAP (BAPI_SALESORDER_GETSTATUS) is different than in a DB2-based tracking system (QUERY_ORDER). The result is that Web services for these two functions have different characteristics. In other words, they are not semantically interoperable. So any new application that wants a complete list of orders for a customer has to implement complicated logic to reconcile the two Web services.

Instead, by using business service modeling tools, we can combine these order related functions into a new reusable business service named AllOrderStatus. Now we have a more abstract order definition that hides the underlying complexity of the SAP and DB2 systems. And this new business service can be assembled with other business services to form complete composite applications.

The bottom line is that business services are the key enabler to cost effectively build composite applications, and composite applications are the path to bringing business value to SOA. This means that business agility and quick response to the never-ending business changes faced by our companies can be delivered today.

Roger Sippl is currently chairman and founder of Above All Software. He has more than 25 years of senior operations and chief executive experience with technology companies. He was founder of Informix Software, co-founder and chairman of The Vantive Corporation and was the founder and CEO of Visigenic Software. He is also a founding partner of Sippl Macdonald Ventures and invested privately in several successful software companies. He can be reached at roger.sippl@aboveallsoftware.com.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Integration and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

The Integration Consortium is a non-profit, leading industry body responsible for influencing the direction of the integration industry. Its members champion Integration Acumen by establishing standards, guidelines, best practices, research and the articulation of strategic and measurable business benefits. The Integration Consortium's motto is "Forging Integration Value." The mission of the member-driven Integration Consortium is to establish universal seamless integration which engages industry stakeholders from the business and technology community. Among the sectors represented in the Integration Consortium membership are end-user corporations, independent software vendors (ISVs), hardware vendors, system integrators, academic institutions, non-profit institutions and individual members as well as various industry leaders. Information on the Integration Consortium is available at www.integrationconsortium.org or via e-mail at info@integrationconsortium.org.

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