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Open SOA Sells—But Microsoft Isn’t Buying

Almost a year ago, BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., SAP AG and four other vendors all put aside their respective differences—in public, anyway—to form an informal SOA advocacy alliance.

Last week, nine additional vendors threw their hats into the SOA-advocacy ring, joining with founding members BEA, IBM, Oracle, and SAP to officially kick off Open SOA and its Web site. The fleshed-out Open SOA member roll includes industry heavyweights Sun Microsystems Inc., Tibco Software, Progress Software, and Software AG, among others. The group is currently spearheading two proposed SOA specifications—Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO)—which it plans to make available to others in the industry on a “royalty free” licensing basis.

Presumably, Open SOA will offer the same terms to Microsoft Corp., which—not surprisingly—remains a prominent hold-out. Gartner analysts Massimo Pezzini, Yefim Natis, Kimihiko Iimijima, and Roy Schulte see in this a parallel to another vendor grassroots effort that kicked off nearly 10 years ago—and against which Microsoft famously aligned itself. “The addition of nine vendors (most notably Sun Microsystems …) means the group looks like the one that formed around Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) almost a decade ago and helped to propel it to industry prominence,” they write. “As was the case then, Microsoft is staying away; it plans to release Windows Communication Foundation, its own model for SOA.”

That being said, the Gartner quartet note, there are some important differences. “[T]his new alliance differs from its predecessor in that it is not focused on a single language. By adding Sun, the group has solidified compatibility with products that use Java Business Integration. The move will also help attract vendors in the Java community and increase the specifications' standing.”

What’s at stake? Plenty, analysts say. Proponents say SCA and SDO will provide a language- independent programming model for SOA. Open SOA offers a programming model, the Gartner analysts note, but relies on standard communication protocols, including—initially, at least—Web services, the Java Messaging Service, and the J2EE Connector Architecture.

“The biggest gap in the specifications—lack of interoperation with Microsoft's .NET—has not yet been addressed, although many vendors plan to support Microsoft technology. Addressing .NET is vital to the effort's success, as almost all organizations will have to integrate .NET applications in their SOA,” they indicate.

Neither specification is yet complete, however, and Gartner doesn’t expect Open SOA to finish work on them until the end of the year, at which point the group says it will hand them off to an existing standards body to aid certification. The takeaway, the Gartner foursome concludes, is that Open SOA is a group to watch, but that the absence of Microsoft—perhaps more than was the case nearly a decade ago—is troubling.

“Watch this group of vendors, because it is likely to generate specifications that will help companies deploy consistent and successful SOA projects, especially those involving many technologies and suppliers,” they counsel. “Remember that production-ready versions of SCA and SDO probably won't appear before late 2007 and that Microsoft is likely to remain outside the initiative.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at stephen.swoyer@spinkle.net.

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