by Judith Hurwitz, CEO & Marcia Kaufman, Partner
We have spent a good deal of time talking to CIOs about their implementation of Service Oriented Architectures. It is clear that companies which are looking at SOA from a business perspective rather than purely a technical perspective are in a much better position to be successful. But once organizations have a clear business view of how they can implement SOA effectively at the business level, it is time to start looking at what technical infrastructure needs to be put in place.
At that point in time, the use of a SOA registry will need to be considered. At Hurwitz & Associates, we think that the business services registry is an underappreciated but vital component in making a service oriented structure scale at an operational level. We also anticipate that this area will heat up as point of competition. One of the major players, SAP, is developing a registry as an integral part of its enterprise services architecture (their SOA strategy) and IBM, HP, Oracle and others may do the same either by acquisition or by development.
What is a Business Registry?
Let?s start with a definition. A business services registry is a way to keep track of the location, purpose, business rules, and usage of a component of software that is intended to be used in many different circumstances. It incorporates information about the users of the services and information about the governance of those services. It provides the ability to publish and integrate the software components so that consumers can employ the services and connect them to each other when appropriate. In essence, the registry is the metadata repository of the information about the services that a business will leverage as it begins to create composite applications (applications created from a collection of business services).
The registry thus becomes the central point of definition for a SOA implementation. An organization uses this structure to capture the definition of each business service, its rules, and security requirements ? in one ?logical? location. It is important to note that the most effective business service registries use a federated implementation model so that multiple registries can be connected without having to create one uber registry.
While the notion of a registry (or repository) has been around for decades, it takes on a new significance in the context of a service oriented architecture. In traditional computing models, a registry was usually designed with one specific application area and use in mind. In fact, some organizations took the time to write their own registry applications because they felt that this was the only way they could achieve control and scalability ? especially in complex transactional applications.
The Standards Imperative
When organizations began to implement pilot SOA projects, many technologists assumed that it would be appropriate to continue along this path. However, it soon became clear to the pioneers that there were important advantages of having a consistent, modular, and standards-based metadata foundation that applied globally. SOA can take advantage of such a registry to effectively coordinate multiple lines of business across internal organizations, highly distributed partners, and customers.
Alternative approaches to the registry are unworkable in our view. A global standard is all important, although some specialization may prove necessary especially with aging in-house applications. In some situations, organizations may be forced to create customized connectors to various data sources that require specialized coding. Such connectors then need to be maintained as the development and underlying infrastructure changes. SOA pioneers sought to minimize this. They recognized that by working with registry standards such as UDDI, they would be able to replicate most of their work across different applications and different business situations.
One vendor that has provided an effective business services registry is Systinet. Its registry solution has been widely used by partners such as IBM and HP as well as many early adopters of SOA. Systinet provides value life cycle management capabilities on top of foundational standards such as:
- providing a mechanism to discover and manage distributed data and metadata,
- providing a mechanism to locate, manage and process services,
- controlling access to specific business services based on corporate governance
- providing an index to enable the linkages between policies, metadata, and services.
The Bottom Line
Using a business services registry provides a mechanism that keeps track of the details ? the services, the components, the rules, the linkages, and the context for making a loosely coupled environment work as a system. Without a well designed registry, organizations will simply continue to write custom code to link services together which will not scale and cannot be easily maintained.