On the second day of the SOA Days in Bonn, Germany, members of the SOA Innovation Lab presented their latest research results on the topic of SOA and standard platforms. The SOA Innovation Lab was formed in Bonn when some of Germany’s industry leaders decided to join forces to develop methods and best practices for deploying SOA in business architectures. Its members include Bayer, Lufthansa, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Post, Daimler, and Volkswagen.
According to Hans-Jürgen Gross, head of enterprise architecture management and SOA at Daimler, providers such as SAP and Oracle now have the SOA concept firmly anchored in their strategies. Software packages such as SAP Business Suite software are heading in the right direction, but there are still many issues to be resolved. The biggest problem, according to Gross, is that the monolithic structures of standard packages have not yet been broken down. In SOA terminology, these are referred to as silos, which do not integrate or share data with other applications. Furthermore, this tendency toward monolithic structures results in dependencies between individual services. And finally, Gross adds, there are few successful implementations of standard software according to the SOA principle in large companies.
When an organization’s IT environment is planned using SOA criteria, the individual business areas – such as financials or human resources – are divided into domains. However, this domain landscape does not necessarily slot in neatly with standard software packages. Human resources and financials can be mapped very well in a modular way – but CRM products go beyond the scope of the domains. What’s more, different providers take different approaches to SOA, which means that problems and incompatibilities can arise when products from different vendors are combined.
It’s therefore no surprise that the SOA Innovation Lab delivers quite a sobering verdict on the SOA capabilities of the major providers. Yes, SAP and co. have their sights clearly set on service-oriented architecture, but the road there is still a rocky one. That’s why users and vendors now need to get together to make SOA and standard platforms a success. According to Gross, the vendors have already signaled a keen interest.
Open source as the alternative?
Because SOA depends on the interoperability of individual services using open Web standards, open software seems like an ideal alternative. With open source, the focus is on openly exchanging and processing knowledge, which then results in higher quality products. One of the largest open source communities – particularly in the area of SOA – is the Eclipse Foundation. Unlike the Mozilla Foundation, whose products include the Firefox browser, many major companies are on the Eclipse Foundation’s illustrious list of members. Among the 169 members are, for example, IBM, SAP, BlackBerry, Nokia, Oracle, and Cisco.
On April 21, 2010, the Eclipse Foundation announced the formation of its SOA Industry Working Group. The group’s objective is to define an Equinox-based SOA platform, including tools and runtime components, which can be used by providers for their own SOA deployments. The common platform aims to increase interoperability between different vendor solutions and provide a technological cornerstone for new SOA developments. The first release of the Eclipse SOA Platform is now available on the Eclipse Web site and can be downloaded free of charge. The next release is slated for June 2010.