In-Depth

Profile: Above All Software's New Way to SOA

Above All Software helps turn legacy applications into business services.

Conceptually, the idea of the service-oriented architecture (SOA) sounds simple. Take your existing code, or write new code, and pass messages among the code segments through a set of well-defined and loosely-coupled interfaces. These messages tell each of the services how to behave, and what results to send to the user or to the next service.

But most of today's existing applications weren't designed to be used as services. They tend to be monolithic, with logic and data organization that aren't optimized for extraction into services. Determining what logic and data is necessary to produce a service, and then extracting this information into the service, has proven to be a long, error-prone activity for enterprises.

Above All Software takes this type of legacy application and makes it easy to produce modern Web services.

Jon Temple, President and CEO, describes the focus of Above All Software in terms of a historical progression. "In the 1980s, we experienced an era characterized by an explosion of business information," he explained. "In the 1990s, we needed to organize that information into business processes. We began to see a flow through a sequence of people."

The focus of today's enterprises has evolved yet again. Temple said, "Enterprises are seeking out redundancy in their information systems and workflows." Data are stored all across the organization, and duplicate data and processes are common. In addition, processes are fragmented, with different parts of the same workflow being completed in different departments, with different applications and data.

Web Services to Business Services
Above All Software addresses today's focus of enterprise application integration, which aims to move from an application-centric view of processes to a business-centric view. The company was founded by Roger Sippl—who also founded database leader Informix in 1980—and he had the background to understand and tackle the role of information in business processes.

The market for SOA tools is large and diverse, with highly competitive tools performing similar functions. The wide availability of solutions for building service components of a SOA makes it difficult for developers to identify the right tools and techniques with which they should move from traditional business applications to business services. But your initial choices on tools and development approach can mean the difference between a successful services implementation and a failed IT project.

Above All Software is unique to the SOA tools market because its technology goes a step further, producing not just Web services but what the company refers to as "business services." Business services are Web services that reflect the actual business process, rather than a legacy application's attempt to replicate one or more parts of the process.

Above All Software's strategy for application integration employs four principles: mine, refine, assemble, and deploy. Using Above All Software's Above All Studio product, your development team can mine existing business-critical applications for candidate business services and data, and catalog the results of the process in a repository. This provides essential information and raw material for designing and constructing the integrations.

This product then enables your development team to refine the Web services information into business services, by defining new business service objects, resolving semantic differences in objects, and abstracting calls and data to insulate the service internals from changes in the application outside of the services. In addition to rationalizing existing code, your team can also align the emerging application with business requirements and practices.

Once the essential data and operations have been mined out of the Web services and refined so that they can be used in the required solution, your team is ready to assemble them into the application. You can complete this task visually with Above All Studio, by connecting the constructed business services on the screen and passing the required data. Your resulting solution, perhaps with supporting custom code, can fulfill the full end-to-end operation of a business process.

Last, your development team can use this product to deploy the completed application, with full integration enabling it to call the Web services and perform the defined process from beginning to end without your team having to intervene. This type of deployment creates the business services, which execute the business processes.

Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Above All Studio
Last spring, Above All Software entered into a competition conducted by the Integration Consortium, a non-profit, global advocacy group which champions integration acumen by establishing standards, guidelines, best practices, research and the articulation of strategic and measurable benefits. This competition, which was open to all integration vendors, provided contestants with a significant problem that was representative of a typical business situation, and asked contestants to devise and implement a working solution in approximately 30 hours.

Above All Software used the Above All Studio methodology to address this problem and won the competition. They even performed additional integration activities during the constrained timeframe for extra credit.

Above All Software believes this competition demonstrated that you can evaluate services and integration alternatives based on real-life performance, what factors are critical in this type of evaluation, and the effectiveness of different approaches in addressing an actual integration problem. This competition also showed key characteristics and components in any real-world approach to today's integration problems, such as flexibility, the ability to abstract essential information from Web services, and the ability to rapidly prototype potential solutions.

Above All Software is also leveraging its expertise in the Web 2.0 market. Web 2.0 is all about the user experience, and a set of business services built with Above All Studio can provide you with a consistent interface for user interaction.

Jon Temple noted that the journey to business agility has been long and isn't nearly complete. He said, "Many vendors offer the ability to migrate legacy code by using a services wrapper. But wrapping just creates another application silo. Users need a common view across the business process." Above All Software brings about the alignment of IT and business through a common view by focusing on the business service.


Above All Software, Inc.
One Lagoon Drive, Suite #110
Redwood City, CA 94065
http://www.aboveallsoftware.com

About the Author

Peter Varhol is a principal at Technology Strategy Research LLC, an industry analysis and consulting firm.

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