SOA Link: Might Not Be What You Think

It's a relatively new organization, but there's so much talk these days about service orientation that you've probably already heard about SOA Link, the group of companies that came together in May to focus on delivering interoperable solutions for SOA deployment. But one of the founding fathers of the group worries that you might have the wrong impression.

''I think people have mis-categorized the SOA Link initiative to be an alliance of Web services intermediaries and Web services registry/repository [providers],'' Miko Matsumura, VP of technology standards at Infravio (which founded the Link), told me. ''That misses the point. The problem of governance is so multidimensional that you need a constellation of enforcement points, and a bunch of perspectives to create the appropriate constraint model. You want to constrain people from doing things that will break the IT operational system, but you also want to constrain them from breaking the regulatory system so that your CEO stays out of jail. And you want to prevent anyone from breaking the line-of-business policy systems so that the company doesn't lose money.''

In other words, SOA Link is about bringing together vendors with SOA governance products, so that they can devise highly visible ways to get them to interoperate. The organizers also want the site to serve as a catalog of use cases, and a place to show people how the different member systems fit together.

Matsumura is the former vice president of product marketing at Systinet, co-creator of The Middleware Company's SOA Blueprints (the first complete, vendor-neutral specification of an SOA application set), and the original Java Evangelist at Sun Microsystems. He's the guy who coined the term ''intentional SOA,'' about which I've written before. Infravio is a Cupertino, CA-based provider of SOA Web services management products.

Miko and several SOA Link members got together with me last week to set the record straight about this nascent group. Yeah, they're mostly marketing guys, but they really helped to paint a clearer picture of SOA Link, and I think that's useful.

Chris Benedetto is VP of marketing at Delaware-based Solstice Software. The company was originally founded as a unit-testing tool company back in 1996, but re-launched in 2003 with a broader EAI and SOA testing solution.

''What we see in SOA Link is that testing and change management are converging,' Benedetto said. ''We're interested in being a thought leader in this space, but also in being in the good company of others and learning how these other vendors approach the market. We see the Link as a pragmatic solution to what's really evolving in this space on many levels.''

Frank Grossman is the president, CTO, and co-founder of Mindreef, a New Hampshire-based provider of solutions for testing and verifying the quality of SOAs. The company is best-known for its SOAPscope products.

''There are really just a few successful SOAs out there right now,'' Grossman said. ''I think we all realize that there need to be more successful SOAs to have a healthy industry. SOA Link is about finding connections between SOA Link members, so that we can bring those links out as best practices and help the industry understand the pieces that have been successful.''

Jim MacKay is the chief marketing officer at iTKO, a Dallas-based SOA solution-testing company, and one of the Link's newest members. The company just introduced the LISA 3 testing platform. He calls the self-interested interaction of SOA Link ''socialized quality.'' (As buzzwords go, not bad.)

''The reason we got involved is that this is an evolving, dynamic space,'' MacKay said. ''People are learning as they go that quality is an important aspect of SOA, and it needs to be thought about within the context of the entire service life cycle. That's a new paradigm. If you look at the SOA infrastructure footprint, there is no single vendor who can do it all right now, and so interoperability becomes critically important.''

Wayne Ariola is the VP of corporate development at Parasoft, the venerable testing company based in Monrovia, CA. Parasoft has been around forever, and its six-year-old SOAtest product, which provides Web services testing and verification, is a regular on just about every tech pub's top-ten list. Ariola says that his company is now seeing its customers beginning to take the legacy apps they initially exposed as services and ''taking the leap'' to expose them in full SOA initiatives.

''SOA Link gives us the ability to give these folks some real insight before they move forward,'' he said. ''If we can understand the stack above us and the objective or expectation of the client—the policies being enforced from one solution, interpret that, and make it enforceable at the next stage—well, that's invaluable.''

Keep in mind that SOA Link is not taking a stone-tablet approach—no mandated API for interoperability. Instead, it's a more-or-less public statement by the vendors involved that they will provide interoperable solutions to their customers.

''Think of it this way,'' MacKay said. ''We've been brought together by the market in hopes that we'll be brought together by a customer, and here's the way we see our products working together in this particular scenario. The group will extend our understanding of how we should interoperate, and in the process, it's going to accelerate our understanding of our own offerings.''

As of this writing, SOA Link membership roster also includes AmberPoint, Composite Software, Forum Systems, HP, Infravio, Intalio, IONA, iTKO, JBoss, Layer 7 Technologies, LogicBlaze, Mindreef, NetIQ, Parasoft, Reactivity, SOA Software, Solstice Software, SymphonySoft, and webMethods.


About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].