European SOA Tour

Someone – Paolo P. perhaps? – said this was like a rock ‘n’ roll tour. A different city every night (almost), different hotel, and the same presentation (well similar anyway)!
To put things in the right order, the tour started May 7 and ended May 23, and included the following stops:
Madrid May 8-9 – meeting with Telefonica on SOA, SCA, STP
Wiesbaden May 9-10 – STP presentation at Eclipse Forum
Munich May 10-11 – meeting with O2 on SOA
Zurich May 11-14 – meetings with Credit Suisse on SOA
Milan May 14-15 – meeting with Massimo Pezzini (about SOA etc.)
Nice May 15-18 – SCA presentation at TMW
Rome May 18-20 – meeting with ENEL about SOA
Edinburgh May 20-23 – “Web of services” panel discussion at W3C AC meeting
I talked in some form about services and/or SOA in every city. I did not always use the same presentation because the specific content varied according to the occasion or general topic.
The Presentation
Here is an abbreviated version of the kind of presentation that I often give:
1 – title
2 – problem statement
3 – goal statement
4 – solution statement
The presentation begins by saying how important to business and industry it is to solve the biggest problem facing IT – the productivity of developers, and the ability to use industrial and scientific methods in improving the speed and output of the application development process. The widespread adotion of interface and interoperability standards (current candidates: SOAP and WSDL) are of course the key.
5 – example of success
The World Wide Web is given as an example of the successful adoption of key standards (HTML and HTTP) that enable productivity and significantly lower costs in human to computer interaction. We have not yet seen the same level of success in computer to computer interactions (this is basically what we are currently debating under the “Web of Services” topic at W3C).
The Web connects private networks together across the public network (i.e. the Internet) using Web servers placed at the endpoints, or in this case the points at which the public and private networks meet. Sometimes this is called the “edge of the net” and this was standardized through the addition of a specific software layer that implemented the standards.
6 – where success is lacking
7 – SOA technology choices
8 – WSDL as the unifying standard
9 – SOA changes the organization
10 – Adding services to the endpoints
The same thing can be done within the enterprise by adding a specific software layer at the application endpoints – that is, the places where applications need to share data with each other. And here is where IONA software contributes to the solution.
11 – Endpoint oriented infrastructure
12 – Adding enterprise qualities of service
13 – Broad platform support required
IONA software is unique in supporting a completely distributed SOA design, one in which services talk directly to each other, instead of going through a message broker, hub, or central server. Unlike other ESBs, IONA software is completely agnostic with respect to communication protocol and data format. IONA software is designed to work with and complement existing software instead of replacing it. And finally, IONA software puts into one package the capability to create the SOA contract and configure the communications patterns among the services.
14 – Power of the endpoints
15 – SOA+standards=productivity
The IT industry can benefit from standardization, like the Web, and the best way to provide SOA infrastructure is to take a similar, distributed approach. SOA provides the blueprint and XML and Web services the standardized building blocks that improve productivity.
This is all supported by software tools and organizational considerations such as an enterprise architect dividing up the work.
Tour Summary
I would say at the end of this tour that the potential benefits of SOA are fairly well known, at least well promoted and heard of.
At the booth in Wiesbaden though we would get some JAX 2006 attendees complaining about how SOA is nothing more than the latest hype from vendors. That bothers us since we have customers who have been working on SOAs for 10 years or so, and use them for high volume transaction processing. SOA is definitely real. But unfortunately software vendors do tend to stick the SOA prefix to just about everything and anything these days, which causes this kind of reaction. If we could just stick to promoting real SOA please!
Most of the time the customers I talk with are interested primarily in the implied organizational and design issues. I think the majority of folks understand that SOA is an approach, not a technology, although I still get some people thanking me for that clarification.
And of course the organizational issues are significant. I’ll be speaking in New York in a couple of weeks about the change in thinking required by SOA. I’ve blogged about this before and have appeared on SYS-CON TV to talk about it (and I am very glad to see that this remains on the most popular list). But I probably can’t stress it enough, since it is definitely more important to figure out your particular approach to SOA than it is to select a vendor or choose a technology.
Because of our longstanding experience with customers doing SOA we can help with the organizational issues and the skill set issues and the design issues. But once those are settled we can also help with the technology issues, since our experience also helps us design our SOA infrastructure products for the best way to do SOA — at the endpoints (i.e. the places where applications need to exchange data).
Sometimes this takes a little discussion, since we are not an application server, we do not require an application server (although we can work with one), we are not an EAI hub (although ditto), and we are not a messaging system (ditto).
We have our own microkernal runtime with configurable plug-ins (everyone has these now but ours was the first used in production). You have a lot of deployment options, as unobtrusive as executing within the same address space as the application for example, and basically we provide standards-based interoperablity via WSDL services over standards based as well as proprietary data formats and communications protocols – you mix ‘n’ match as you see fit, use multiples for the same service, etc.
Our specialty is the reuse of existing IT assets with the right amount of software (i.e. improving upon what’s already there) at the right price.
I hope the SOA tour has helped get the word out about services and SOA, their general importance to the industry, and the role IONA has to play within that big picture.
(update – fixing the date to reflect when I completed the entry instead of when I began the entry.)

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