Metadata Repositories are the ''New Black''
- By John K. Waters
Among infrastructure vendors, metadata repositories are the must-have SOA
technology of the moment—they're the ''new black when it comes to implementing a
service-oriented architecture,'' writes Ovum analyst Laurent Lachalas.
BEA Systems' purchase this week of metadata
repository management provider Flashline
is the latest in what I think it is fair to call a trend. About a week ago, webMethods purchased Cerebra, adding that
company's semantic metadata management technology to its Fabric product suite.
Last month, Hewlett-Packard acquired Mercury
Interactive and its Systinet Web services registry technology (which MI
purchased earlier this year) to complement HP's SOA Manager. And in May, IBM added Unicorn Solutions' metadata management
capabilities to its data management software portfolio.
Managing the piles of metadata generated by a service-oriented architecture
has emerged as one of the knottier challenges in the brave new world of SOA.
We're talking service definitions (WSDL), policy definitions that control
security and other access to services (WS-Security and WS-Policy), models and
business process definitions (BPEL, UML, WS-CDL), schema for data (XML Schema),
and more. The registries provide a means of discovering, locating, and binding
the metadata; the repositories store it and support change and version
That's how ZapThink's SOA maven Ron
Schmelzer explained it to me. ''Registries (like Infravio, Systinet, and Software AG) emerged
when Web Services required them through UDDI and other access mechanisms,'' he
says. ''Repositories (like those offered by Software AG, LogicLibrary, and Flashline) were first
used by developers to manage all their assets, but once those assets became
services, it all started to get mushed together.''
Today, infrastructure vendors seeking to offer a complete SOA platform need
both a registry and a repository. BEA acknowledged back in May, when the San
Jose, CA-based company launched its AquaLogic
Service Registry, that a complete SOA infrastructure needs both
technologies, and that acquiring a repository was high on the company's to-do
list. When I spoke with him about the acquisition yesterday, BEA's chief
architect Paul Patrick beat me to the obvious question:
''Someone asked me the other day, if this was part of the plan back in May,
why wait until now to get the repository in place? The reality is that the
marketplace and people's experience with SOA had to reach a certain maturity
level. I think most of the analysts will agree that last year was the year of
people experimenting and kicking the tires. This is clearly the year of
deployment. Now they're beginning to feel the pain of what happens when they
start building these services. How do I find them? How do I get my arms around
them? And how do I reach in and bring my existing assets together so I can
leverage them, so that SOA can be real?''
BEA plans to incorporate the Flashline repository into the BEA AquaLogic
product line, where it will complement the AquaLogic Service Registry (UDDI).
The Flashline technology gets re-branded as BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Repository,
but BEA intends to sell the repository and the registry as stand-alone products.
''We feel that the registry and repository need to be unique and separate,''
Cleveland-based Flashline was founded in 1998 as an online marketplace
selling software components. The company later shifted gears to focus on code
reuse, and in 2003 recast its flagship Component Manager Enterprise Edition
(CMEE) product as the Flashline Registry.
Flashline's CEO and founder, Charles
Stack, will be joining BEA, and will continue to lead the Flashline group in Cleveland. When
I spoke with him about the acquisition, he was excited about his new
role. ''We share two things with BEA that you hope for, but don't always see in
acquisitions,'' he said, ''a shared culture—despite the size difference—and
a shared vision.'' Stack was also sanguine about the typically daunting
integration challenges that accompany an acquisition. ''We've always spent a
huge amount of our engineering resources making sure that our product is widely
interoperable,'' he said, ''so we've really got a leg up on the integration with
the rest of the AquaLogic suite.''
Schmelzer views the acquisition as a positive move by BEA, one that fills key gaps in the
company's SOA portfolio. ''Flashline addresses part of the overall metadata management problem by
tracking, governing, and managing liquid assets in a common repository,''
he says. ''This is not specifically service-oriented, but rather across projects
people build and deploy with BEA technology.'' But gaps remain: ''[The
acquisition] leaves BEA lacking with regard to service metadata management
and the registry,'' he says. ''[V]endors like Infravio and LogicLibrary have
a more comprehensive offering for the market for SOA metadata management, registry,
and governance than the Flashline offering. And Systinet, Infravio, and
LogicLibrary still maintain significant market share in the industry
for those capabilities... BEA will have to play catch up to add those
capabilities or maintain their relationship with Systinet.'' (BEA OEM'd Systinet last
Neil Ward-Dutton, Research Director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, agrees: ''Flashline
sells a general-purpose, software-asset-management product,'' he says. ''It's a
very sophisticated one, but not one that dovetails with the nuanced requirements
of managing service network lifecycles. To really support SOA, you have to have
a set of tools that work together across all the stages of the lifecycles of
individual services, because at the end of the day a 'service' is not only
something you build; it's something you experience. Doing this means sharing
metadata and functionality from design time to runtime—linking QoS or security
specifications that you might set out at design time with runtime enforcement
points embedded in third-party middleware and management tools.''
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached