OASIS to Develop SOA Reference Model

A core reference model to guide the creation of specific SOAs is in the works, thanks to a new committee by international standards consortium OASIS. Driven by a need for continuity across the industry, the SOA Reference Model (SOA-RM) Technical Committee will strive to deliver a normative SOA reference model by the end of the year.

Currently, “there is no normative, standard definition of exactly what SOA is and means,” notes Duane Nickull, committee chair and senior standards strategist at Adobe Systems. Instead, large enterprise projects tend to involve products from multiple vendors, each of whom has their own idea about what SOA is.

“It is important from multiple perspectives to reach consensus on what SOA is,” Nickull explains. “If SOA is architecture, as its name implies, then it should be definable as architecture and sufficiently different from other types of architecture.”

Nickull continues, “Vendors need a consistent understanding of where the logical and physical boundaries of their products should be. This enables vendors to state, ‘This is the part of the solution that we supply,’ and know that the other vendors and the solutions architects also think the same way. It is less expensive for everyone to do things with that consensus,” he adds.

According to OASIS, the SOA-RM will provide an understanding of the core elements within a service-oriented environment and the associations and relationships among those elements. The RM itself will not be directly tied to any standards, technologies or other concrete implementation details but will be an abstract to be used as a tool to aid in the development of specific SOAs.

The SOA-RM “will be used by various audiences to align and harmonize thinking, much the same way that the OSI 7 layer stack helped network architects align their thinking,” Nickull remarks.

“It will be a useful tool for architects when architecting service-oriented architectures,” Nickull continues. “It may act as a guide to facilitate consistent behavior and divisions of systems. It can also be used to explain SOA to non-specialists and facilitate a common understanding of what SOA really means.”

The SOA-RM committee already has more than 45 members, including government agencies such as Japan’s Electronics Commerce Promotion Council, Canada’s Public Works and Government Services and USA’s Department of Homeland Security. Other members include Boeing, General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Mitre and VISA.

All organizations and individuals, especially those directly involved in the design, documentation or implementation of SOAs, are welcome to join. Archives of the committee’s work are accessible to both members and non-members. Additionally, OASIS hosts an open mail list for public comment.

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].