Service-oriented architecture is poised to explode in 2006, and iSeries user group COMMON is hoping to get ahead of the curve by focusing on SOA during its spring conference, March 26-30 in Minneapolis.
SOA is an IT strategy that has gained a lot of ground in the last year. SOA changes applications into services; in other words, applications are related to business function rather than hardware and software. The applications reside on a network and integrate with each other in a Web-based language with a common interface. The data from these applications can be used and combined across whatever part of the IT infrastructure is SOA enabled.
The services are "loosely coupled," meaning that even technologically disparate tools can be joined to offer a composite view to an end user. Instructions pass from one party to another with a minimal integration between apps. This is achieved through the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a standard language format that describes the type and content of data being transferred.
According to Bob Krzeczowski, conference education team manager for COMMON, SOA is not a new technology. It's more of a new way of looking at IT systems. The idea is to look at applications as business components or services, as opposed to correlating them to servers.
Krzeczowski said COMMON is looking at SOA because the iSeries fits very well with that type of systems architecture. The iSeries uses object oriented processing and is very adaptable at creating Web services. It also fits well into IBM's plans for SOA.
According to Krzeczowski, IBM's support for SOA is a big reason for taking on the topic. But he also said beyond IBM's support, the technology may be the pervasive systems direction in the future.
"It's something our members should know about," Krzeczowski said. "It's very important that they understand SOA."
So where is the iSeries community when it comes to adoption?
"My opinion is that it's probably diverse. We have members implementing SOA and we probably have a percentage that doesn't know what SOA is," Krzeczowski said. "We're trying to bring that awareness to a higher level. Right now, it's not pervasive in our base."
A special focus on the technology means that there will be additional information to augment what people already know, and it will educate people who are evaluating the technology for their own use. Previous special focus topics included security and Linux.
"Our conference education team looks continuously at areas of the industry that we think are worthy of a special focus. The team looked at what people had been asking about," Krzeczowski said. "With all of this iSeries modernization going on, this was a strategically placed topic."
Krzeczowski said a legacy order entry program would be a good candidate for modernization through SOA. An order entry system that does everything might be one large program with a lot of different business applications: pricing, shipping, inventory and other aspects. When you're looking at a rewrite or modernization of that program, SOA lets you break down the business functions into smaller components, which are easier to manage.
"Everyone's business is composed of business functions that lend themselves to SOA," Krzeczowski said. "What you're trying to accomplish is a redefinition so that your services can be utilized across boundaries."
According to Krzeczowski, COMMON is currently finalizing the specifics of speakers and topics for SOA. But he did offer the following details on what COMMON will offer in the spring:
But don't expect the spring 2006 conference to be the last you hear about SOA. Krzeczowski said he expects SOA to play a large role in the future.
"As our membership starts to adopt more SOA practices, we would be remiss not to offer SOA education going forward," Krzeczowski said.
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