SOA: Enabling the Long Tail of IT
The forty-year history of IT has followed a pendulum, swinging from centralized computing (mainframe timesharing), to decentralized (client/server), and back to centralized (Web/n-tier architectures with thin browser clients). Now the pendulum is swinging back to decentralized IT, with the emergence of advanced, collaborative, and richly interactive applications under the banners of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0, making possible a dizzying array of new business opportunities and technologies that catch the fancy of entrepreneurs, developers, and dreamers everywhere. While the first decade or so of the Web, not even casually referred to as Web 1.0, continues to have a significant impact on the way that companies run their business and make money, it doesn’t threaten the current power or structure of the IT organization as much as the newer movement to SOA and Web 2.0 have the potential to do. The swing back to decentralization encouraged by Service Orientation…

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SOA: Bridging the Divide Within IT
We often refer to information technology (IT) as if it were one cohesive department within the enterprise. However, for most businesses, IT really consists of at least three separate organizations each with their own technologies, best practices, approaches, and terminology: the systems and network people, the application development and integration team, and the data storage and information management group. It should come as no surprise that this siloed approach to organizing IT leads to inflexibility, and limits IT’s ability to meet the changing needs of business. For people who construe Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) narrowly as applied directly to the application development and integration arena, SOA would be of little help in addressing these broader issues of siloed IT organizations. However, to be most compelling to the organization, SOA should apply to all groups within the IT department. It is important, therefore, to explore how to apply the principles…

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REST and Web Services: The ZapThink Take
Question: what do you call two or more architects in a room? Answer: an argument. Now that Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is the topic du jour within many such rooms in enterprises today, one favorite argument is over Representational State Transfer (REST) and its relationship to Web Services. Many such discussions degenerate into a religious discussion over which approach is better, but as with most arguments in the SOA space, the reality is far more subtle. Up until now, ZapThink has been happy to stay on the sidelines of this battle, but the time has come for us to weigh in with the ZapThink take on the REST vs. Web Services debate. The Context for REST and Web Services This perennial debate centers on a core challenge of SOA: what is the best way to create a loosely-coupled Service interface? One approach is the style of distributed computing known as…

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SOA and the Zachman Framework
As companies increasingly dive into the complexities of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), they need to consider an expanding set of criteria for what must go into the architectures they design. As IT architecture broadly speaking is still relatively immature as a practice, SOA is only now coming into its own as a discipline. Companies are looking for a model to understand the scope of their SOA initiatives so that they can build robust architectures that can withstand the ever-changing landscape of technologies, organizations, and methodologies. One increasingly popular approach for an organization to wrap their arms around the complexity that architecture represents is to use one of the most popular models for understanding Enterprise Architecture (EA) and its role in the business: The Zachman Framework, created by John A. Zachman. Zachman’s key insight was to consider the problem of EA in two dimensions. The first dimension is the various…

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Grappling with SOA Change and Version Management
ZapThink frequently speaks of change, since change is the one consistent reality underlying the entire business world. Change, after all, focuses businesses on realizing the benefits of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), because the primary reason for embarking on a SOA project is to improve business agility while reducing IT costs in the face of today’s brittle, inflexible, and tightly coupled systems. However, let’s not let the perfume of the SOA rose intoxicate us too much, since implementing SOA itself introduces change every bit as significant as the forces of change that SOA is meant to address. SOA implementations must be built to change, or companies will never be able to realize the agility and cost savings benefits that SOA promises. In particular, a number of change and versioning issues arise when dealing with the sort of living SOA that companies so desire today. Versioning Service Contract Metadata The core…

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SOA for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)
As Enterprise Architecture, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is particularly useful in large enterprises, and increasingly, to small and midsize businesses, as well. However, those are only one part of the IT ecosystem. What about those companies that are in the business of building and selling software products, so called independent software vendors (ISVs)? Generally speaking, ISVs create and sell software products that run on one or more IT platforms. ISVs might offer consulting services, but they typically aren’t consulting companies per se. Neither are they simply Value-Added Resellers (VARs) or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), who embed or customize someone else’s products. Rather, ISVs sell their own intellectual property as installable, configurable software. The largest software vendors are responsible for the enterprise applications that we run, the operating systems we use, and the infrastructure platforms on top of which we conduct business — think IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, HP, and CA.

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StrikeIron: Taking the Complexity out of Service Consumption
The traditional route for most independent software or hardware vendors (ISVs) to differentiate their application functionality is to build or acquire functionality and then integrate it tightly into their own offerings. However, over time, this approach leads to substantial complexity and brittleness as customer requirements and business objectives change. The introduction of Web Services and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) offers ISVs a new opportunity to add functionality to their offerings without having to build or acquire that technology and then go through a painful technology merging process. The ability to consume third-party Services that other vendors provide is a new capability that ISVs should explore as they continue to seek differentiation for their offerings. In this ZapNote, we explore the idea of embedding third-party Services within ISV offerings and how to do so without adding to their complexity. [hide -1]Download File[/hide][hide +0]Register to Access this…

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Solving the Service Granularity Challenge
For us analysts that have been covering the markets around XML, Web Services, and Service Orientation it certainly is heartening to see that our audience of end users, vendors, and consulting firms are now asking some of the more complex and deeper questions around how to do architecture right. It seems that we’ve finally crossed the chasm and architects in particular now have a pretty good idea what SOA is and why they need it. Rather than trying to redefine what SOA is and what is means to the business, people are focusing on the more important issue of how to do SOA right. In that vein, some of our most recent conversations have centered on how to go about building the “right” Services. A key part of answering this question is making sure that we build Services at the right level of granularity. Granularity is a relative measure…

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Service Orient or Be Doomed: ZapThink Analysts Announce Publication of their Latest Book!
Ever wonder why businesses are unable to keep up with today’s pace of change? Name your business goal–productivity, profitability, efficiency; today, they all depend on Information Technology (IT). IT is more important to business today than it ever was. While IT in the past has helped companies increasingly make their businesses more productive and efficient, today’s IT is simply getting in the way of change. It is increasingly becoming clear that the way that businesses utilize IT is increasingly making them less agile, less responsive to change, and less able to capitalize on new opportunities. Something has to be done to stop the problem of IT becoming the bottleneck of business. SERVICE ORIENT OR BE DOOMED! How Service Orientation will Change Your Business (Wiley, February 24, 2006;$39.95 cloth) is the first book aimed at regular businesspeople that helps business become more agile by offering technological, process, and cultural changes…

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Understanding the Relationships among Services, Contracts, and Policies
If you’ve been programming computers as long as we have, you probably remember the first time you tried to write an object-oriented program, maybe in C++ or Java. The tendency was to put all the code into a single object. It took a while to finally get our heads around the new approach to software that objects represented. After all, learning how to code in C++ or Java was easy, but learning how to build an “object” was really hard. At some point, however, there was that “aha” moment, and from then on, you always wondered why you had ever programmed any other way. Moving to Service-oriented development requires the same sort of mind shift. Developers tend to build Services as though they were simply APIs to existing functionality. Sure, Web Services enable standards-based interfaces, but what’s the big deal with that? Just as putting all the code into a…

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