One just has to look at what is going on in the world of web services and the web generally to see that standards, hateful and creatively restricting though the little devils can be, are actually a good idea. They may cut short the life of some clever bits of technology that don’t fit in, but the results that can be achieved with the collection that do can be remarkable.
So, the fact that the Open SOA Group has got itself to the point where it is ready to disport itself publicly with a new website (www.osoa.org) and has a bunch of specifications available that are designed to make the creation of composite, loosely-coupled services a great deal easier, is something to crow about – up to a point at least.
For example, the specifications in question fall into two main groups: the Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO). SCA covers a range of modeling tools – how you loosely-couple applications in a consistent manner so that creating the composite services does not – or damned well should not – require too much in the way of hand-tooling to make them fit together.
SDO covers how data is handled between different applications. Again, consistency across a composite of different applications is the important goal, and this one is somewhat important – losing data on the way between apps would not only be embarrassing, it could be fatal to the business.
One of the most important points sustaining the OSOA Group idea is that, no matter badly the member companies might lust after total dominance of any user’s service provision infrastructure, the real world is different. Indeed, the most effective services any user creates will almost certainly incorporate applications from a number of different vendors. So having them all work to the same interfaces and protocols – the same standards – will inevitably be a significant advantage all round. Web services have already shown what can be achieved.
If such specifications are important – and I believe they will be, even if it is not exactly these as currently proposed – having all the major players onside would seem to be a sensible objective. The current membership list quite impressive, with BEA, IBM, IONA, Oracle, SAP AG, Sybase, Xcalia and Zend now joined by Cape Clear, Interface21, Primeton Technologies, Progress Software (formerly Sonic Software), Red Hat, Rogue Wave Software, Software AG, Sun Microsystems and TIBCO Software.
So it is a bit sad, though almost inevitable, that two of the leading names in SOA, HP and Microsoft, are not part of the mix. OK, Microsoft is not really a major name in SOA yet, but it has significant expectations of its place in that panoply, and HP is certainly a major contender already. It will be interesting to see how they jump and in which direction. If they don’t join in they will, I suspect, need a very good reason – and starting their own, or standing separately, will not be a good enough answer.