An SOA Unconference

By Dr. Chris Harding, The Open Group

Monday at The Open Group Conference in San Diego was a big day for Interoperability, with an Interoperability panel session, SOA and Cloud conference streams, meetings of SOA and UDEF project teams, and a joint meeting with the IEEE on next-generation UDEF. The Tuesday was quieter, with just one major interoperability-related session: the SOACamp. The pace picks up again today, with a full day of Cloud meetings, followed by a Thursday packed with members meetings on SOA, Cloud, and Semantic Interoperability.

Unconferences

The SOACamp was an unstructured meeting, based on the CloudCamp Model, for SOA practitioners and people interested in SOA to ask questions and share experiences.

CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. The CloudCamp organization is responsible for these events. They are frequent and worldwide; 19 events have been held or arranged so far for the first half of 2011 in countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, Turkey, and the USA. The Open Group has hosted CloudCamps at several of its Conferences, and is hosting one at its current conference in San Diego today.

What is an unconference? It is an event that follows an unscripted format in which topics are proposed and presented by volunteers, with the agenda being made up on the fly to address whatever the attendees most want to discuss. This format works very well for Cloud, and we thought we would give it a try for SOA.

The SOA Hot Topics

So what were the SOA hot topics? Volunteers gave 5-minute “lightning talks” on five issues, which were then considered as the potential agenda items for discussion:

  • Does SOA Apply to Cloud service models?
  • Vendor-neutral framework for registry/repository access to encourage object re-use
  • Fine-grained policy-based authorization for exposing data in the Cloud
  • Relation of SOA to Cloud Architecture
  • Are all Cloud architectures SOA architectures?

The greatest interest was in the last two of these, and they were taken together as a single agenda item for the whole meeting: SOA and Cloud Architecture. The third topic, fine-grained policy-based authorization for exposing data in the Cloud, was considered to be more Cloud-related than SOA-related, and it was agreed to keep it back for the CloudCamp the following day. The other two topics, SOA and Cloud service models and vendor-neutral framework for registry/repository access were considered by separate subgroups meeting in parallel.

The discussions were lively and raised several interesting points.

SOA and Cloud Architecture

Cloud is a consumption and delivery model for SOA, but Cloud and SOA services are different. All Cloud services are SOA services, but not all SOA services are Cloud services, because Cloud services have additional requirements for Quality of Service (QoS) and delivery consumption.

Cloud requires a different approach to QoS. Awareness of the run-time environment and elasticity is crucial for Cloud applications.

Cloud architectures are service-oriented, but they need additional architectural building blocks, particularly for QoS. They may be particularly likely to use a REST-ful approach, but this is still service-oriented.

A final important point is that, within a service-oriented architecture, the Cloud is transparent to the consumer. The service consumer ultimately should not care whether a service is on the Cloud.

Vendor-Neutral Framework for Registry/Repository Access

The concept of vendor-neutral access to SOA registries and repositories is good, but it requires standard data models and protocols to be effective.

The Open Group SOA ontology has proved a good basis for a modeling framework.

Common methods for vendor-neutral access could help services in the Cloud connect to multiple registries and repositories.

Does SOA Apply to Cloud service Models?

The central idea here is that the cloud service models – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) – could be defined as services in the SOA sense, with each of them exposing capabilities through defined interfaces.

This would require standards in three key areas: metrics/QoS, brokering/subletting, and service prioritization.

Is The Open Group an appropriate forum for setting and defining Cloud customer and provider standards? It has a standards development capability. The key determining factor is the availability of member volunteers with the relevant expertise.

Are Unconferences Good for Discussing SOA?

Cloud is an emerging topic while SOA is a mature one, and this affected the nature of the discussions. The unconference format is great for enabling people to share experience in new topic areas. The participants really wanted to explore new developments rather than compare notes on SOA practice, and the result of this was that the discussion mostly focused on the relation of SOA to the Cloud. This wasn’t what we expected – but resulted in some good discussions, exposing interesting ideas.

So is the unconference format a good one for SOA discussions? Yes it is – if you don’t need to produce a particular result. Just go with the flow, and let it take you and SOA to interesting new places.

Cloud and SOA are a topic of discussion at The Open Group Conference, San Diego, which is currently underway.

Dr. Chris Harding is Director for Interoperability and SOA at The Open Group. He has been with The Open Group for more than ten years, and is currently responsible for managing and supporting its work on interoperability, including SOA and interoperability aspects of Cloud Computing. Before joining The Open Group, he was a consultant, and a designer and development manager of communications software. With a PhD in mathematical logic, he welcomes the current upsurge of interest in semantic technology, and the opportunity to apply logical theory to practical use. He has presented at Open Group and other conferences on a range of topics, and contributes articles to on-line journals. He is a member of the BCS, the IEEE, and the AOGEA, and is a certified TOGAF practitioner.

Comments Off

Filed under Cloud/SOA

Comments are closed.