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Can I Do SOA With Web Services Today?

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I am just coming back for Toronto where I have been presenting Oracle Developer Day: SOA for J2EE Developers. As part of this exercise I have introduced Web Services and related technologies/standards.

A person in the audience asked me:

But can I do SOA Today? Are Web Services are mature enough?

I think that is a very interesting and valid question. The answer is certainly: 

  • Yes you can, and I would add, yes you should!!

Web Services are  definitively big actors in Service Oriented Architecture since by definition they are loosely coupled, implementation agnostic and facilitate reusability. In the same time the concern of this person are justified since some important pieces of infrastructure are yet available in vendors solutions. Or if they exist they are proprietary and won’t allow interoperability of the service with other stack… Losing interoperability is a big deal when you talk about Web Services since most of the time, if the designers want to use Web Services it is to be able to reuse it in various applications, independently of the platform where this application is running.

Why I have answered Yes?

Why I am so positive when I answered this person? Just simply because Web Services are today mature enough. But like any development of applications/systems the development should start with a clear definition of the requirements. When the development team will start to write down the requirement it will be clear of not what are the important pieces in term of services. Beside the business requirements, lots of requirements are technical/IT related such as security, performance, manageability, reliability, and transaction management, performance… So when you design your system do not forgot to clarify what are the different infrastructure services you need….

It is then easy to match your infrastructure requirement list to the different quality of services supported by the platform you will implementing on, and as important, the platform(s) you will have to integrate with.  For example today it is possible to easily create SOA/Web Services application that are secured because WS-Security is a standard supported by most of the vendors. At the opposite it may be very challenging to create SOA/WS based application that involve a very complex transaction model with various applications and system since no standard have been implemented in a real interoperable manner. But no worry the WS brains are here and work on it, take some time to read more about WS-Transactions and other related standardization effort.

Based on the previous example with security and transaction, it is also important to keep in mind that the Web Services is a mature technology but it is still evolving -based on real life requirements-. So in the same time your application/system will evolve -it is one of your goal when you do SOA, it is to build a more agile system that can react to business, or technological changes quicker-, do not forget that your vendor are continuously working to not only define the standard but also implement them in their product. So you may put as a requirement from the beginning a specific infrastructure services that are not available in today’s product but the important question to ask you before dropping SOA/Web Service is when I really need this feature? When this feature will be available in my platform?

This is why also it is important to understand the strategy of your vendor in term of flexibility and adaptability of their solution to the different standards, and how it can help you to take care of legacy services that need to integrate with your new applications. One nice example is the usage of Oracle Web Services Manager. Even if WS-Security is one of the first standard around “Enterprise Web Services” it has not been in the different stack for long so lot of existing WS do not support WS-Sec. Oracle Web Services Manager allow you using agents and/or gateway to add security in a standard way to existing services, and enrich you SOA with a better quality of services.  So do not say no to SOA/SOA because a standard does not exist or exist but not implemented, it will come -take a look to all the WS-* effort-, and this standards will be able to extend the system that you are building as you need…. SOA is all about agility, to be sure that it will be agile enough to provide you more services as you go!

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