Heavyweights ramp up SOA spec work

An alliance of leading software vendors late last month announced progress on specifications to define a language-neutral programming model for application development within SOA (service-oriented architecture) environments.

SOA, a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services, is proving increasingly popular among corporations. As more companies look to deploy Web services, their developers are calling for increased standardization to make the process of integrating different third-party SOA technologies less onerous.

Rivals BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and SAP AG first got together in November to begin work on the common programming model along with Iona Technologies PLC, Sybase Inc., Xcalia SA and Zend Technologies Ltd.

“We want to give customers an easier way to build composable applications,” Karla Norsworthy, vice-president, software standards at IBM, said during a conference call.

Under the banner of Open SOA collaboration, the vendors have concentrated their efforts on two projects: service component architecture (SCA) and service data objects (SDO).

SCA focuses on defining models for creating and assembling service components for building SOAs, while SDO aims to provide a consistent method for data handling within SOA applications.

The companies expect to submit their SCA and SDO specifications to an as-yet-undetermined standards body by year-end, Michael Bechauf, vice-president, industry standards at SAP, said.

Over the coming months, the vendors will work on ensuring consistency across the specifications and incorporating feedback as they ready the specifications for submission, he added.

The work since November has focused on ease of use and adding support for more technologies, according to Jeff Mischkinsky, director, Web services standards at Oracle. The SCA specifications now include full support for BPEL (business process execution language) and the PHP (PHP hypertext preprocessor) Web scripting language as well as integration with the Spring Java development framework and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB).

The SDO specifications have been revamped to be more flexible and include support for unstructured data, he said. The alliance has also grown to 17 members, with nine new members joining, notably Progress Software Corp., Red Hat Inc., Software AG and Sun Microsystems Inc.

“We’ve got a very wide set of supporters, which is tantamount to gaining acceptance in the industry,” said Ed Cobb, vice-president, architecture and standards at BEA. The work that the vendors are engaged in is around the development of core technologies, he added, very different from what’s underway at standards body OASIS. “They’re working more at the best practices level for what companies are to do to prepare for [SOA] implementation,” Cobb said.

The vendors have set up what they term a vendor-neutral Web site at www.osoa.org as a collaborative forum for input and feedback on the specifications. “It’s organized as a wiki,” SAP’s Bechauf said. “It’s a work in progress.” The site will also allow the vendors to make major revisions to the specifications more visible to their peers and users, he added.

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