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SOA vendors ready new wares

Feb 27, 20064 mins
Enterprise Applications

Two vendors are expected to unveil products this week that customers say will help them tap their legacy assets more efficiently in a service-oriented architecture environment.

Software AG is preparing to release Crossvision, a suite designed to help companies deploy and manage application services. Crossvision combines management features with tools for integrating applications, building composite applications and modeling business processes.

For its part, Sonic Software is expected to take the wraps off Actional 6.0, its SOA management platform due to ship in early March. Actional 6.0 will be the first platform upgrade since Progress Software – Sonic’s parent company – acquired Web services management vendor Actional for $32 million earlier this year and folded the purchase into Sonic.

Sonic has added features it calls Business Process Visibility that give business users and IT staff insight into the services infrastructures that support business processes. The tools let users write, apply and enforce policies for those processes. In addition, the software can auto-discover the infrastructure, applications and services supporting a business process and create a flow map aimed at faster detection and resolution of problems.

Newly added activity-monitoring tools can be tuned for business users looking for data such as units shipped, and for IT users seeking operational data such as service response time.

“Actional allows us to monitor and centrally manage all the actions on our service fabric,” says Israel del Rio, senior vice president of technology solutions for the 800-property Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The White Plains, N.Y., company is four years into a project to move its mainframe-based reservation, booking and inventory system to a services architecture. “With Actional we are able to find out what type of service calls were being made and what is the service response we are getting,” says del Rio, who is beta testing Version 6.0.

Tap into mainframe systems

American Fidelity Assurance Company, a longtime Software AG customer, also is using SOA technology to build business applications that tap into its core mainframe systems.

The insurance company has built services-based applications that automate the process of issuing policies, as well as customer-facing Web applications that use services to link to mainframe databases for executing requests such as a balance look-up or claims presentation.

American Fidelity uses Software AG’s legacy integration software and XML database, as well as its mainframe programming language and database management software. The bundling in Crossvision will create closer ties among the products and streamline the process of working with Web services, says Jim Lupton, vice president of IS at the Oklahoma City company.

“We had a lot of the pieces already, but they were all separate,” Lupton says. “We didn’t really have the architecture to make them work together without building it ourselves.”

Lupton expects American Fidelity will be able to achieve greater reuse of the services it builds. “In the past, what we were putting together was probably not tremendously reusable,” he says. For example, some services didn’t make use of the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) specification, which provides a common way to describe services and the format for service requests. The Crossvision components will make it easier to use WSDL and avert some of the steps required to expose a service today.

Revamped software from Software AG, Sonic and other vendors shows the market for more mature SOA products is growing, says Ron Schmelzer, a senior analyst at ZapThink. “We’re now at the point where the vendors have consolidated to a certain degree, the different markets have coalesced, and the standards are relatively mature, so the products are becoming more mature.”

Among users, SOA is seen as a less risky technology than it was in the past, he adds. Companies are looking beyond simply applying services interfaces to systems and thinking about how to build proper services atop a wellconceived runtime infrastructure. “We’re seeing a lot more companies really starting to take a look at planning – planning which services to build and how to build them in a secured, governed, reliable way.”