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If SOA solutions are going to live up to the expectations of supporting agile business processes then the individual services will need to be fine grained. They need to be sufficiently small so that they can be used in multiple different business processes easily. They need to be sufficiently small that the service can be re-implemented using new technology without changing the external interfaces or functionality. They need to be sufficiently small that the service can be fully tested to ensure the reliability of the service.
Building business processes from such fine grained services means that there will be a large number of interactions between independent services. This raises two major issues for widespread deployment:
- Ensuring the security of the interaction. A service must be able to trust the caller and the request. A caller must be assured that the service called and the response is the real thing.
- Providing good performance of the adapters, transformers and routers. The information flowing between services will generally be in XML, and XML processing is expensive. Using general purpose platforms it is very likely that the cost of the interactions will be higher than the cost of the actual processing.
In a pilot project neither of these issues may cause major concern as the environment is small enough for the service providers and consumers to have a level of implicit trust in each other, and for the number, and cost, of interactions to be negligible in comparison to the enterprise’s total computing. The pilot project should concentrate on understanding the benefits of SOA by showing the agility, flexibility and ease of development of the new environment.
However, before SOA becomes a mainstream solution the issues of security and performance need to be addressed to ensure that ROI is maximised, by minimising the total cost of ownership of the infrastructure, whilst maintaining the ease of use and providing the highest possible reliability.
DataPower provides a range of appliances that take responsibility for these issues away from general purpose servers and into the network. The appliances include specialised patent pending hardware that can process XML as fast as it can be delivered over the network, thus providing an Application-Oriented Network (AON). The AON provides in-line security, transformation and routing which have been shown to be ten times less expensive than providing the same function on a general purpose server. Potentially even more important than the cost benefit is the fact that the separation of these functions from the server functions makes them inherently more reliable and secure as they can neither be intentionally, nor inadvertently, compromised.
DataPower have an impressive set of customers: major financial institutions, government departments and defence organisations, all of whom have a fundamental requirement for reliable, secure and fast SOA solutions. DataPower has also partnered with IBM by integrating the XML silicon into the IBM eServer BladeCenter T chassis to create a Network Equipment-Building System (NEBS) compliant blade server platform for the telecommunication industry.
This pedigree suggests that anyone who is moving from an SOA pilot to full production should investigate the benefits of a DataPower solution.