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The benefits of an open source SOA

By Pierre Fricke, special to Network World
September 10, 2008 10:38 AM ET
This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Network World - Service-oriented architectures are helping companies do everything from automate business processes to increase agility, but implementing the technology is not necessarily forthright.

SOA requires the integration of many varied processes, applications and technologies that are difficult to mesh seamlessly, meaning incompatibility, scalability and flexibility issues often arise. The license-fee structure of traditional software can also limit options and add cost. Turning to open source technology can help alleviate these issues and accelerate deployment, as well as business adoption.

Open source has become a staple of enterprise-class IT as concerns about stability, security and support fall away. Open source is as stable, secure and well supported as proprietary solutions, if not more so. In addition open source SOA solutions provide:

* Simplicity – Open source solutions are easy to find and easy to implement, with many architects and developers being familiar with the core mechanics of the technology. Open source developers are motivated by their communities to deliver easy-to-use frameworks and platforms. It also enables enterprises to rapidly create solutions to deliver tangible, measurable benefits.

* Openness – The flexibility inherent in open source allows for more freedom and personalization of the solution than proprietary offerings, and means that an organization will see more value relevant to its operations from the installation.

* Affordability – The open source subscription model makes SOA products less expensive than proprietary tool sets.

The benefits of open source SOA solutions can be realized in each of the six stages of the SOA evolution: 1) business process understanding; 2) IT assessment; 3) SOA design/determination; 4) SOA service enablement; 5) SOA integration and governance infrastructure; and 6) process orchestration/composition.

For the first three steps, work efforts are focused on the business processes, current IT design and SOA design, and the open source subscription model offers a more affordable and flexible pricing structure than traditional SOA solutions. That helps the SOA design work proceed more quickly without concern about per-CPU license fees.

The advantages of open source solutions are particularly evident during the final three steps in the process.

In the fourth stage, SOA service enablement, organizations must determine how application and data services will be developed and deployed. Enlisting an open source application server and/or data services platform gives great flexibility. While enjoying the same level of support and security as a commercial offering, architects and developers can more easily develop and deploy platforms that enable greater developer productivity and speed to solution. Additionally, the community model drives feature and quality requirements into these platforms that these architects and developers look for.

The fifth step of the SOA evolution is integration and governance infrastructure, the “glue” of the entire deployment that makes it work. Architects need to choose how services, applications and users will interact and communicate with one another. One major decision usually made in this stage involves the choice of an enterprise service bus (ESB), essentially the intelligent integration fabric in the SOA deployment.

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