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New Vendors Join SOA Collaboration Group

Published: July 27, 2006

by Mary Lou Roberts

Late last year, IBM and seven other companies--BEA Systems, IONA Technologies, Oracle, SAP, Siebel Systems (since acquired by Oracle), Sybase, and Zend Technologies--all joined forces with the objective of creating standardized specifications for Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) software development, the latest thing that vendors are pushing to make programs more flexible.

Yesterday, the group, which still does not have a formal name as yet and whose member continue to refer to themselves simply as "the group," announced that it has added several new partners, including:

  • Cape Clear, a Massachusetts-based player in the ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) market
  • Interface21, the U.K.-based company behind the Spring Framework for enterprise Java development
  • Primeton Technologies, a leading vendor of component-oriented development platform in China
  • Progress Software (formerly Sonic Software), another Massachusetts-based company that recently acquired data integration specialist Paterno
  • Red Hat, the big player in open source and enterprise Linux, which recently completed its purchase of middleware and development tool provider JBoss
  • Rogue Wave Software, a Colorado-based company that markets a distributed SOA framework
  • Software AG, the German company known as a leader in business process management and legacy modernization
  • Sun Microsystems, one of the two important missing links from the November announcement (along with Microsoft, which still, apparently, hasn't shown any inclination to make nice with the other kids on the block), and
  • TIBCO Software, a California-based business integration and process management software company

This now gives the group a total of 17 seats at the SOA table. "With the new partners on board," the press release says, "the group of 17 organizations spans SOA and applications companies to infrastructure and open source providers. Together, they have achieved considerable technical progress in developing SCA [Service Component Architecture] and SDO [Service Data Objects] technologies. . . . The SCA specifications are designed to help simplify the creation and composition of business services while the SDO specifications focus on uniform access to data residing in multiple locations and formats."

Thus far, the group has accomplished the following: development of a new draft SCA specifications for a declarative policy framework; improved description of connectivity with bindings specifications for JMS, JCA, and Web Services; development of new BPEL and PHP authoring models; and updating of draft specifications for Service Assembly, Java and C++ authoring, and SDO.

When observing coalitions, one can frequently read between the lines to determine who the real movers and shakers are--and the power structure of the group was probably evident in the choice of speakers at the announcement teleconference. Karla Norsworthy, vice president of software standards for IBM's Software Group, led off the session with a few (very few) words, introducing the three other speakers: Ed Cobb, vice president architecture and standards at BEA; Jeff Mischkinsky, vice president at Oracle; and Michael Bechauf, SAP's vice president of industry standards.

Cobb started out by reviewing the goals established last November, which were to develop a set of specifications--SCA and SDO--designed to optimize the use of SOA. The SCA specification would consist of a set of language-specific specifications, a service offering, and an assembly model specifications that is a collection of metadata that enables the construction of tooling to provide the capability for business analysts and architects to build composite services from an existing library of services.

Cobb reminded his listeners that, last November, the group published five initial specifications--three for SCA and two for SDO. "We positioned them as the next level of abstractions about the Web services technology that we've been talking about for a number of years, where Web services has focused on providing the interoperability between heterogeneous environments. What SCA and SDO are intended to do is to provide a common programming model for the authoring and composition of services and for accessing data for those services in a style that is conducive to building an SOA implementation."

Oracle's Mischkinsky spoke about the "solid technical progress" that the group has made to date, on both the SCA and SDO specifications, praising the eight or so members that have been meeting on a weekly basis to flesh our and more fully develop the specifications. In particular, he described the overall "themes" that the group has focused on, including simplification, doing things more powerfully with fewer lines of code, increasing the range of technology supported, and adding flexibility. "Our main emphasis was on simplification," Mischkinsky said, "making it easier for an enterprise developer and assembler to specify policy hints in a simple, declarative way without having to write a lot of code." He also pointed out that they have worked to make the assembly model much more powerful by making it more uniform.

SAP's Bechauf introduced the group's new Web site and pointed out that the "OSOA" in the name stands for "Open Service Oriented Architecture," a moniker befitting a site representing a collaboration of such a diverse collection of industry leaders and up-and-comers. This Web site, he said, will be used to collaborate and communicate about the project and the work they are doing. "This is not a static site," he pointed out, saying that the site will offer a way to offer both access to early implementations as well as offer feedback.

"In summary," Bechauf said, "this is a collaboration of global vendors who recognize that our customers have a common set of challenges, so we came together less than eight months ago, and we have made significant progress. The focus of our work is rapid technology innovation, and we have and will work towards two main goals." The first of these goals, according to Bechauf, is the completion of the SCA and SDO specifications, with the remaining work on that project being to establish consistency between the two documents, incorporate the feedback they hope to get from the Web site, and integrate the experiences from early implementations that are already out there.

The second remaining goal, Bechauf points out, is to turn these specifications over to a standardization body. "Our part of the work will be to validate what the most appropriate place for submission is." The group intends to make that decision before the end of this year. Which standards body is most likely to be the new home for the group's work? Bechauf did not name names, but he did offer the following: "Our choice will be based on two criteria. It has to be a body that is well established in the Web services space. And because our specifications have to do with metadata, this hints towards the notion of model-driven development. We need to select based on those criteria."


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