Christmas arrives early for SOA

Two announcements over this past month pave the way for increased services-oriented architecture (SOA) rollouts. Standards body OASIS got an intellectual property donation from Capgemini designed to create practical SOA business profiles, while IBM is sharing intellectual property on SOA, but with an important caveat.

The backwards approach to SOA is finally reversing course, now starting with the business “why” rather than just the techie “how.” Directing energy to defining the business rationale behind an SOA — in other words articulating the “why” behind a project — will lead to better implementation and the opportunity to measure success.

To this end, a relatively new OASIS technical committee (TC) provides a critical input here. The SOA Adoption Blueprint (SAB) TC aims to do exactly what their wordy name implies. The SAB TC creates blueprints that simplify the adoption of SOA by providing business profiles that illustrate practical deployments. Tackling portal and single sign-on (SSO) implementations first, this TC is committed to developing and maintaining a list of SOA blueprints.

Capgemini, through this TC, announced the donation of a notation and methodology for documenting business requirements for SOA. This is a plus for the TC and businesses wrestling with SOA, as this sort of practical guidance delivers real value to businesses.

The importance here is two-fold: it improves the abilities of organizations to define the “why” behind SOA projects and it establishes a precedent for sharing intellectual property that accelerates SOA adoption.

In a similar move, IBM (though not a contributor to the SAB TC) announced SOA intellectual property donations of its own to accelerate adoption in healthcare and education. IBM offers royalty-free use of relevant intellectual property that it has in these verticals, with one catch: vendors using IBM’s intellectual property must be compliant with a set of SOA/information standards that IBM has listed.

This is good for IBM, in that software built to a common denominator of standards — and with guarantees of no patent claims — keeps costs in check for the implementation of its WebSphere and other IBM software products.

From a short-term perspective, these initiatives must have been a tough call for IBM to make, however. On the one hand, this intellectual property donation can improve SOA adoption, drive revenue for their partner community and enhance customer interoperability.

On the other hand, IBM intimates that non-compliance could lead to the flexing of its intellectual property muscle.

There is the potential for disagreement in the broader context of competing of information and application platforms — hopefully an unlikely fate, given that the vendor community has rallied behind interoperability more often than not.

OASIS and Capgemini contribute to a framework for building a SOA and IBM supplies some glue to hold it up. Better implementation guidance and interoperability guarantees significantly accelerate sluggish SOA adoption.

This is good news in a space where, according to IDC Canada, for the first time in 2005, the number of organizations having completed their first SOA project exceeds those who have no SOA deployment plans at all.

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Senf is the manager of IDC Canada’s Canadian Software Research service. He can be reached at [email protected]

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