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Scaling for humans inside an SOA

Mindreef rolls out a Web service lifecycle collaboration platform for cross-discipline and cross-organizational service teams and service consumers.

Collaboration is a necessity -- not an option -- when building out a service-oriented architecture. That's the premise of Mindreef Coral, a Web services lifecycle collaboration platform launched yesterday by Mindreef Inc.

The other premise is that individual users, service teams and service consumers should be able to collaborate and share information regardless of role, skill set or development environment without the need to be XML experts.

 With SOA you will be modifying services all the time and there will be ongoing collaboration betweendesign time and run time.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC

"XML has been a great lingua franca for machines, but it's not that great for people. You can't get to the scale of an SOA without effective collaboration," said Frank Grossman, co-founder and president of Mindreef in Hollis, N.H.

"As point-to-point projects grow in scope across organizational boundaries with different platforms, different computer languages, different policies and cultures, it's difficult to effectively communicate," said Jim Moskun, Mindreef co-founder and chief strategist. "Misunderstanding and finger-pointing can put a big drag on productivity. The ad hoc collaboration people have been doing for years in software development has to be more formalized."

Mindreef Coral, Moskun said, is "taking something people doing are very informally now -- putting XML snippets in e-mail and sending it with a description. We're formalizing [that process] and putting everyone on the same page." This includes architects, managers, business analysts, developers, testers and support staff.

The need for collaboration across organizational boundaries and disciplines is "one of the key changes the move to SOA introduces," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC in Waltham, Mass. "Services are being developed and changed all the time. Instead of the traditional lifecycle, which takes a year to roll out a product and be done, with SOA you will be modifying services all the time and there will be ongoing collaboration between design time and run time."

When Mindreef first introduced its SOAPscope diagnostic tool, "the market wasn't ready for collaboration yet, but this is where [Mindreef] was going," Bloomberg said. This announcement "is good timing on their part. Enough companies have enough services in production that they're feeling the pinch of getting teams to collaborate."

Mindreef Coral includes a superset of SOAPscope functionality, according to Moskun. Mindreef Coral servers house Web services data and XML-aware tools. Servers can be linked together to work across disparate teams.

"The Coral server is a collaborative hub," Grossman said. "If you think of the registry as a great place for computers to get together, the Coral server is a great place for people to get together. We have a [community] portal for people consuming services, and for those doing governance there's a work area."

Mindreef Coral tools include foundational governance that allows all team members to participate and check for compliance during the development lifecycle, multi-role testing, collaborative diagnostics that include a Web services simulation tool for prototyping, and lifecycle support with a community view that exposes service contracts in an easy-to-understand form.

Mindreef Coral's tools operate on Mindreef shared workspaces (MSW). MSWs can contain Web services artifacts, such as WSDL files and SOAP messages, as well as a playable script, simulation data and descriptive notes. MSWs can be shared across teams or through the community portal.

Moskun said the next release of Coral will include APIs to interface with production-time management software and intermediaries to collect problem data. In version 1.0, that is a mostly manual process, he said.

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With Mindreef Coral, "they definitely have a new angle," Bloomberg said. "They offer post-deployment capabilities to support personnel, as well as QA, so they're doing more than just supporting developers. It's truly a collaborative platform, with architects, developers, business analysts and testers all working from the same core set of information."

The launch of Mindreef Coral is the company's "coming out party," Bloomberg said. "SOAPscope was never intended to be a money maker for them. It was there to build name recognition and great partnerships, and they did a good job building partnerships. Coral is their flagship product."

Pricing for Mindreef Coral is on a concurrent-user license basis. Coral Server starts at $999 and includes two-user licenses. Additional licenses are $499 per year. Mindreef Coral runs on Windows XP Professional or Windows Server 2003.

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