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All eyes on SOA at COMMON conference

The rise of virtualization is paving the way for what analysts say is the next wave of server efficiency: Service Oriented Architecture. Users got a primer at this year's Common conference.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Seventy-odd techies crammed into a windowless little room in the sub-basement bowels of this city's convention center, all wanting to know: What's the deal with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)?

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Led by Laura Knapp, corporate networking spokesperson for IBM, the session was among dozens of other hour-long gatherings at this year's COMMON, an annual conference put on by the IBM System i user group with the same name.

"We're getting prepared. If everybody needs a red dress, and the red dress is SOA, that's what we need to do," said Roy Goldstein, technical services director for Capricorn Information Systems, a Westchester County, N.Y.-based consulting firm specializing in providing custom applications to System i clients. "It's a logical approach to align technology with the business end, but I think it's going to be years before we know if SOA's going to be a success or a failure. It's really about fashion. It's about what CEOs want to spend money on. And maybe this is it."

SOA environments are attractive from a business standpoint because the setup can enable resources to be accessible in a standardized way. So, for instance, services written in a different language than an application can still be used by that application.

Though there is still apprehension to adopt, some analysts are certain of its widespread implementation, comparing the positioning of SOA now to the once cusp status virtualization held not long ago.

"It is very clearly inevitable," said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics. "It is absolutely the right direction to be going in. The past five years, people have been doing consolidations. The next logical step is to put [servers] all in pools, then it's virtualized. But with all these resources, it's costing a lot of money to manually assign workloads, so you'll want to automate workflow."

Issues covered in Monday's primer included the impact of loose coupling interactions and advantages of Enterprise Service Bus design and application management via IBM's Tivoli software.

Present at the session was Mike Nelson, application development team leader for FreshPoint Inc., one of the largest food service distributors of fresh produce in the country.

"The real benefit I see from this architecture would be the services it could provide between our modules of business," Nelson said. "SOA could be a way for us to use the base applications that we have written for our core customer base but allow a wider set of customers to access the programs without much custom programming. If a change is required, the modification is slow because of the impact on several modules. If we can loosen that coupling in the modules and place the service bus as the interface, making changes would be a faster process and make us respond better to change."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Joe Spurr, News Writer

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